Political Science – A Costly Misnomer

Science is the pursuit of knowledge according to the scientific method: hypotheses must be testable, and results must be verifiable by replication.  Obviously, the more quantifiable something is, the more accurate and precise its measurement can be, and the more accurate and precise something is, the more testable and verifiable it is – it’s hard to test and then verify an uncertain or vague something-or-other.  So the definition of science really comes down to quantification.  Well, that and matter – only material things can be quantified.

Political science is the study of government organization and political systems.  These things are not quantifiable.  It would seem, then, that political science should have been named political art. 

So?  Well, one, we’re left with an interesting question: why was political science mis-named in the first place?  My guess is that it was because men did the naming.  For whatever reason (and several come to mind), men dominated government and politics, so, of course, they would initiate, dominate, name the field of political science.

And why would they choose to call it a science rather than an art?  Well, simply because the arts are considered feminine.  And this was a bad thing.

And why was science, on the other hand, considered masculine?  Perhaps because male supremacy depends on size.  So size is seen as a good thing.  So quantifiability, the measurability of size, is seen as a good thing.  Science, by quantifiability, is thus linked to masculinity.

And two, we’re surely left wondering what the consequences have been of this error in nomenclature.  Perhaps if political science had been named correctly at the start, if the creation and maintenance of a just society was recognized as an art, not a science, we might have just societies.

We might be focusing on quality, not quantity.  Consider the impact of this on the current economics-by-GNP system (a system in which oil spills and car accidents are good things because they increase the GNP – read Marilyn Waring), the system which directs our Finance Departments.  If we focused on quality, one’s standard of living might not be determined by how much one has, but by how happy one is, how free and autonomous one is.

Systems of organization might be lateral, not hierarchical (hierarchical systems are implicitly incremental, that is, dependent on quantity differences).  Consider the impact of this on the workplace.

Attention might be paid to process, rather than to structure (structure is matter – static quantity).  Consider the impact of this on hospitals and schools.

It might have been understood that societies are dynamic, fluid, and characterized by relationships which must be kept in balance.  Consider the impact of this on trade and foreign relations.

And it might have been understood that each organism has an optimal size, that unlimited growth is not in its best interests, that more is not better.  Consider the impact of this on consumer societies and ‘Defence’ Departments.

Just consider the impact – of the inconsequence, the insignificance, of quantity.


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