chapter  16
20 Pages

Towards a science of politics: positivism, behaviouralism and economic models

Learned discussions about politics have been a part of the intellectual tradition of the western world from the time of Greek city-states until the present day. Until the 1870s, most of these discussions were speculative and philosophical, but there were also some intermittent attempts to do what we now call comparative government, most notably in Aristotle’s Politics, Machiavelli’s Discourses and Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws. There were also some thoughtful attempts to bring general reflections about politics to bear upon pressing practical problems, most notably in the writings and speeches of the people who conceived and founded the American republic. However, political science did not emerge as a distinct academic discipline until the 1870s.