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The science of power

The study of political science allows you to understand and analyse the rules which govern our lives and even work for creating a better system

education Updated: May 04, 2011 09:32 IST
Neera Chandhoke

Aristotle (384-322 BCE), Greek philosopher, logician and scientist, described the study of politics as the ‘master’ science. The question is, why was it deemed a ‘master science’?

Consider that all social groups live according to certain rules. Now, think of society inhabited by lakhs of people, who interact for economic, social, and cultural purposes. It is obvious that rules have to regulate these multiple transactions. Political science is the study of rules which establish the basic framework of various transactions and which are implemented by the government. The subfields of political science — Indian politics, comparative politics, and public administration — analyse these rules through a focus on constitutions, political institutions, laws, practices, precedents, and administration.

However, these rules may discriminate against women, the lower castes and classes, religious minorities, and the differentially-abled. Political science as critical activity engages with these rules. One, we try to understand the historical origins of patriarchy, the politicisation of caste, and inequality. We explore government policies and social initiatives that address discrimination. Two, political scientists investigate these rules from an ethical perspective.

Some courses will teach you about how and why Indian and Western political thinkers criticised discrimination, and what we can learn from them. By critically analysing existing rules, we can reflect on how these rules can be improved. These courses will help one understand that it is important to adopt values as the basis of our collective life, so that the future can be better. Finally, international relations courses will enable you to see how different societies that follow different sets of rules interact with each other in the global arena, and why some of these are dominant and others have weak bargaining positions.

If you are a thinking person who wishes to understand our collective past and present, as well as critically engage with politics, this is the subject for you. You will learn, through a study of the history of ideas, political institutions, and practices, the world we inhabit can be changed only when our political context, is transformed.

A study of political science will also equip you for a career in research and teaching, in NGOs, in development, in human rights, in the corporate world, in international organisations, filmmaking and in the civil services.

The author is professor, department of political science and director, Developing Countries Research Centre, University of Delhi