Normally, I tend to ignore how popular media outlets and general popular culture deals with and treats the concept of "political science" as such characterizations often appear to come from indifference, misunderstanding, or ignorant hostility. However, as we are in the full swing of a political season, it appears that the term of political science, as some of us are practicing it, is being drug through the mud once again and is becoming increasingly confused with "politics".
More of a discussion follows the jump…
One of the problems with political science is that the vast majority of people do not regard it as science at all. Unlike chemistry or biology or other “real” sciences, political science seems to require no formal training. Any idiot with access to a newspaper or cable TV can claim to be a political expert, regardless of his actual skills. Politics surrounds us, and is therefore difficult to escape. Whereas I can go through my adult life comfortably knowing virtually nothing of physics or neurology, some knowledge of political science is expected even among the plebeians. Unlike moles or joules or centimeters, the words we use in political science are everyday words even the most nonscientific among us use with presumed confidence.
The post goes on to discuss the misuse of fascism as a political label and the fault of the pervasiveness of political science. Here is the where the analogy breaks down. Every individual must deal with issues of both politics and physics without requiring to know either of the sciences behind them. An individual may be forced to pay taxes without understanding political science just as they are forced to struggle against gravity, driving their car, or performing any set of daily activities and sports without knowing physics. A more adept person may look up the political or physical process and learn a bit about politics or physics and then they become informed, but that does not make them a social or physical scientist. Even if they choose to throw around labels and offer justifications for such labels, few people would accuse such a person as being a scientist. An expert on politics, I would suggest, is not an expert on political science.
Finally, rigorous understanding of the scientific process, observation, hypothesizing, data collection, testing of formulated hypothesis, and theory generation makes an expert in political science. Watching pundits on television or reading the latest opinion piece in an editorial does not.
With the political season in full swing, I think it is time to actually define the college course titled “Political Science”
The new definition: Professors Orating Leftist Ideas Totally Indoctrinating Children As Liberals-Sowing Confusing Ideas Endangering Neophyte Conservative Embryos.
Does such misconceptions come from a broad field using multiple methods, issues of self-identification, or general vilification of college professors as liberal and, thus, their political biases must be driven by the political science department? Such vicious attacks would justify aggressive funding cuts to politically-motivated projects and should be something that is avoided.