Though it is not an easy task to define behaviouralism or political behaviour in a very precise way, attempts, during the last several decades, have been made to define it. In this definition there are two things which demand mention. It is a movement, and behaviouralism is based on the observable behaviour of individuals who are regarded as political actors. Behaviouralism starts an in-depth analysis by scrutinising the political behaviour of individuals. There is another definition which is different from the standpoint of language but not conceptually.
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It assumes that political institutions largely reflect underlying social forces and that the study of politics should begin with society, culture , and public opinion. To this end, behavioralists utilize the methodology of the social sciences—primarily psychology—to establish statistical relationships between independent variables presumed causes and dependent variables presumed effects.
For example, a behavioralist might use detailed election data to argue that voters in rural areas tend to vote for candidates who are more conservative , while voters in cities generally favour candidates who are more liberal. The prominence of behavioralists in the post-World War II period helped to lead political science in a much more scientific direction.
For many behavioralists, only such quantified studies can be considered political science in the strict sense; they often contrasted their studies with those of the so-called traditionalists, who attempted to explain politics by using unquantified descriptions, anecdotes , historical analogies , ideologies , and philosophy. Like behaviourism in psychology , behavioralism in political science attempted to discard intuition , or at least to support it with empirical observation.
A traditionalist, in contrast, might attempt to support intuition with reason alone. Perhaps the most important behavioral contributions to political science were election studies. In American political scientist V.
Key, Jr. In The American Voter , Angus Campbell, Philip Converse, William Miller , and Donald Stokes used the results of studies by the SRC to develop the concept of party identification—the long-term psychological attachment of a voter to a political party.
The long-recognized influences of religion, social class , region, and ethnicity , they argued, contribute to voting behaviour only insofar as the voter has been socialized, primarily by his parents, to adopt a particular party identification.
Behavioral approaches were soon adopted outside the United States , often by scholars with connections to American universities. The influential Norwegian scholar Stein Rokkan pioneered the use of cross-national quantitative data to examine the interaction of party systems and social divisions based on class, religion, and region, which in combination explain much voting behaviour. The extensive Eurobarometer series —public-opinion surveys carried out in European Union countries since on behalf of the European Commission—have given European behavioralists a solid statistical base on a range of political, social, economic, and cultural issues; the surveys have provided valuable data for examining trends over time, and they have shown, among other things, that modern European ideological opinion clusters around the political centre, suggesting that stable democratic systems have taken root.
More recently, Transparency International , founded in in Berlin, has conducted worldwide surveys that attempt to quantify corruption. The behavioral approach was also central to the work of the American sociologist and political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset , whose influential Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics used statistical and historical data to demonstrate that social class is one of the chief determinants of political behaviour.
Lipset also contributed to modernization theory by identifying factors that explain why countries adopt either authoritarian or democratic political systems. Specifically, Lipset found a strong relationship between level of affluence and type of political system , demonstrating that less-affluent countries seldom establish democratic structures.
Behavioralism also influenced international relations , though it did not achieve the same dominance in this area that it enjoyed in domestic and comparative politics. The Correlates of War Project, founded at the University of Michigan in , gathered much quantitative data and became one of the leading sources for scholars studying the causes and effects of war and international tension.
Behavioralism also established itself in studies of judicial and bureaucratic systems. By the s behavioralism was in full bloom, forcing the traditionalists into retreat in much of the discipline. By the late s, however, criticism of behavioralism had begun to grow. One charge leveled against it was that the statistical correlations uncovered by behavioral studies did not always establish which variable, if any, was the cause and which the effect.
The fact that two variables change together does not in itself show which causes which; indeed, the changes exhibited by both variables may be the effects of an underlying third variable. In order to make sense of the actual relationship between the variables, the researcher must often use intuition—a tool that behavioralists expressly sought to avoid.
A study of white blue-collar Roman Catholics in Detroit, Michigan, for example, might find that during a certain period they were more likely to vote Republican as they became more affluent and suburbanized. However, whether the change in their voting patterns was due to their race, their religion, their increased affluence, or their suburban lifestyle—or whether they simply responded to the message or personality of particular Republican Party candidates—may be unclear.
In addition, though behavioral research yielded important insights into the political behaviour of individuals, it often explained little about actual governance.
Voting studies, for example, rarely provided an understanding of public policy. Because behavioral research tended to be limited to topics that were amenable to quantitative study, it was often dismissed as narrow and irrelevant to major political issues. Indeed, intense methodological debates among behavioralists and within the discipline more broadly often seemed arcane , filled with esoteric jargon and addressed to issues of little concern to most citizens.
Because behavioralists needed quantitative survey and electoral data, which were often unavailable in dictatorships or less-affluent countries, their approach was useless in many parts of the world. In addition, the reliability of behavioral research was called into question by its dependence in large part on verbal responses to questionnaires.
Analyses of survey results have shown that respondents often give socially desirable answers and are likely to conceal their true feelings on controversial topics; moreover, the wording of questions, as well as the ordering of possible answers, can affect the results, making concrete conclusions difficult.
Finally, many behavioral findings revealed nothing new but simply restated well-established or obvious conclusions, such as the observation that wealthy people tend to vote conservative and poor and working-class people tend to vote liberal or left-of-centre. Political culture may be defined as the political psychology of a country or nation or subgroup thereof.
Political culture studies attempt to uncover deep-seated, long-held values characteristic of a society or group rather than ephemeral attitudes toward specific issues that might be gathered through public-opinion surveys. Several major studies using a political culture approach appeared simultaneously with the behavioral studies of the late s, adding psychological and anthropological insights to statistical covariance.
Modern political culture approaches were motivated in part by a desire to understand the rise of totalitarian regimes in the 20th century in Russia , Germany, and Italy, and many early studies e. Almond and Verba identified three types of political culture: 1 participant, in which citizens understand and take part in politics and voluntary associations, 2 subject, in which citizens largely obey but participate little, and 3 parochial , in which citizens have neither knowledge of nor interest in politics.
The authors found that democratic stability arises from a balance or mixture of these cultures , a conclusion similar to that drawn by Aristotle. Critics of The Civic Culture also pointed out that political structures can affect culture. The problem, again, is determining causality. Over the decades Lipset , who served as president of both the American Sociological Association and the American Political Science Association, turned from explanations of political values based on social class to those based on history and culture, which, he argued, displayed consistency throughout history.
In Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community , Putnam claimed that the American tendency to form citizen groups, a characteristic that Tocqueville praised, was weakening. The political culture approach declined in the s but was later revived as political scientists incorporated it into explanations of why some countries experienced economic growth and established democratic political systems while others did not. Some suggested that the rapid economic growth and democratization that took place in some East Asian countries in the second half of the 20th century was facilitated by a political culture based on Confucianism.
In Africa and Latin America, they argued, the absence of a culture that valued hard work and capital accumulation led to the stagnation of much of those regions. This viewpoint was captured by the title of Lawrence E. Harrison and Samuel P. Political science.
Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Introduction Fields and subfields Historical development Ancient influences Early modern developments 19th-century roots of contemporary political science The early 20th century Developments in the United States Developments outside the United States Post-World War II trends and debates Behavioralism Political culture Systems analysis Theory of rational choice Democratic theory Enduring debates in political science.
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Critique of Behavioralism in Political Science
It also addresses the various reasons why, and ways in which, the British experience of behaviouralism is distinctive. The notion of post-behaviouralism, supposedly a new version emerging in response to potent criticisms of the approach, is considered. While the extent of change has been overstated, the post-behaviouralist critique highlights several criteria for evaluating the behaviouralist research. The article then imposes those criteria on to behaviouralism in Britain, and picks out some of its notable contributions to the understanding of British politics. It highlights the possible ways to improve that contribution further.
Behaviouralism in Politics: Definition, Origin and Credo
I am writing neither to condemn behavioralism in political science, nor to praise or bury it. Advocates and practitioners of behavioralism are in the habit of blowing their own horn so loudly, that the addition of laudatory sounds from an outsider inclined to intone them would make for cacophony. In this sense of the word, many critiques of behavioralism in political science have been offered during the past. Most if not all express judgments about the righteousness of behavioral political studies. Some view righteousness from the right, others from the left. The former have, on occasion, chided behavioralists for pretending to know more than anyone can know, and to want to do more than anyone should do, about political behavior. Unable to display preview.
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