Most fundamentally, politology seeks to explain two qualitatively different kinds of politics (the explicanda): “normal” (Type One), which takes place within established rules, norms, practices and institutions; and “abnormal” (Type Two), which takes place when such “dams and dikes,” as Machiavelli called them, have broken down, and politics shifts to the task of creating them anew. It does so with three different categories of explicans: necessità , or the imperatives to make decisions and the built-in conditions (similar to what are now called “structures”) that come into play in doing so; virtú , or the capacities, inclinations and choices rulers make (similar to what is now called “agency”); and fortuna , or the unforeseen and unforeseeable (similar to what is now called “contingency”).

Like any science, politology must begin with concepts, and it is best to be clear and self-conscious about what they are. The most fundamental ones are power (what is it?) and the generic dynamics of its exercise (how is it deployed?). Other central ones are agents (who exercises it?). Next come discussions of cleavages (what differences shape their activity?), motives (why do they do it?), processes (through what means do they do it?), mechanisms (how do they do it?), units (where and together with whom do they do it?), temporalities (when do they do it?), régimes (within what state institutions do they do it?) and, finally, consequences (who benefits or suffers from their doing it?).