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An approach is to deal with a situation or problem in a particular way. It is also the means by which something is reached. It is the angel form which one views political problems. It is a criteria for searching for the questions to ask. A criteria used to analyze political data. It can be implicit or explicit in what it explains. Some reasons why approaches are used in the study of political science is because it helps us to be more analytical and also helps suggest hypothetical relationships among political forces. The historical approach deals with political thinkers such as Machiavelli, Vico, Montesquieu, Savigny, Maine, Seeley and Freeman. It lays emphasis on the use of historical evidence for proper study of political situations. The reason for the use of this approach is that all political institutions have a long record of their rise and growth and their present form may be well understood in context of their history.
This approach does not only explain the past but also enables us to draw dependable conclusions and also it provides us with basic principles for interpreting the future. Some strengths of this approach are that the value of historical approach enables us to make sound generalizations and we may also call them authentic by virtue because they are based on past evidence. Secondly the historical approach is always open to verification. Since it is based on gathered facts of history we may test the validity of conflicting ideas if needed. Lastly it gives us a sense of history than warns us against repeating blunders of the past. History becomes a lesson for the present generation .It enlarges our mental horizon, improves the perspective and builds up an attitude towards events. Some scholars have listed some problems facing the historical approach to the study of political science. Some of these scholars are James Bryce.
He says the historical approach is often loaded with superficial resemblance. As such historical parallels may sometimes be illuminating, but they are also misleading in most of the cases. Also Sidgwick mentioned that political science is to determine what ought to be so far as the constitution and action of the government are concerned and this end cannot be discovered by a historical study of the form and functions of government. The sociological approach emphasizes that social context is necessary for the understanding and explanation of political behavior of the members of a community. The sociological approach deals with the traits of individuals that are transmitted from one generation to another generation. It also deals with the culture of the people. Some strengths of this approach are that it cannot be criticized for being narrow because it is because it is a very broad approach. Due to its broad nature it cannot be ignored during empirical study.
A weakness of this approach is that it is feared by most political analysts that it may convert politics to a branch of sociology. Psychological approach is an approach that came into being when political science moved close to the discipline of psychology. This was done in modern times by Graham, Wallas, Charles Merrian, Harrold Lasswell and Robert Dahl. It is the study of political science made by political writers in a way so as to deal with the role of emotions, habits, sentiments, instincts and ego that constitute essential elements of human personality. A strength of this approach is that it is the right approach enabling us to study politics with the help of psychological tool. It helps throw more light on political science. This approach is criticized as partially correct because it does not take into consideration some essential elements covered in some approaches. Secondly this approach deals with normative attributed in an empirical political theory that is it deals with belief systems.
The structural functionalist approach has proven to be very useful particularly in the comparison of political systems. This approach views political systems with the way they perform as a unit in its environment. However this approach has been criticized by Jean Blondel. He says that the approach does not enlighten one about the aims of the participants. Also he says before this approach can be effective it depends on what one accepts as a function, in view of this it is difficult to achieve complete objectivity. Even though Jean Blondel has criticized this approach it has some strengths ac an approach. This approach is quite attractive for comparative analysis of political systems this is because in most times it deals with the manageable collection of variables and produces a set of standardized categories that can be applied successfully to varied political systems.
The greatest strength of this approach lies in the area of pattern maintenance of the system. The comparative approach seeks to show the similarities and differences among political situations as a source to data of idea formation and classification. An importance of this approach is that in comparing and contrasting events, institutions, processes, experiences and expectations one gets clearer image of thing observed and shaper understanding of the meanings of the political systems being compared.
A weakness of this approach is that problem with the comparative method is that research might be not objective and the researcher deliberately chooses countries to show negative or positive moments to proof his/her point of view. For example, let’s consider a hypothesis, that countries with weak trade unions are more economically successful than countries with strong trade unions. Here, trade unionists and, on opposite side, managing directors have a political point to make, so more than likely their conclusions might completely differ. So we should be aware that conclusions are not driven by someone’s motivations and values.