QUESTION: THE METHODS USED BY
SOCIAL AND POLITICAL THEORY
Institutionalism put much emphasis on formal legal and political arrangements of the society. Unlike normative political theory which is more theoretical, institutionalism is more empirical in nature. Adrian Leftwich in his book “What is Politics”, argues that normative political theory and institutionalism are the two pillars of traditional political science. But others, especially behavioralists have criticized Leftwich by arguing that the concept of political science is too broad, and that there is more to political science than just normative political theory and institutionalism. With regards to the ...view middle of the document...
They also argue that it is essential to study the history of political institutions because they have their own histories which are relevant in analyzing upcoming political events in the state. And so the essence of this type of method is said to be hyper-factualism where the researcher must commence his research by observing thoroughly the facts under ground and relating them to each other. Hence it is on this basis that this type of research is also inductive because the researcher draws inferences from repeated observations he has done already. However, others have criticize this method that putting soo much emphasis on history (facts) have led to many institutionalist describing themselves as hard-core empiricists and considering theory as only secondary or incidental.
The formal-legal is the second method used by institutionalists in their study of political institutions in political science. The word “legal” is about the study of public law and ‘formal’ is about the study of government institutions. Hence this method is used to study what we call the ‘constitutional structure’ of the state. When we talk about constitutional structure, we are referring to the entire system of the fundamental political system, invariably the public legal system. In using this method, the institutionalists deem it necessary for the study of all the structures that make up the state. These institutions include the executive, legislature, judiciary, etc. The written constitution which is the law that regulates activities surrounding the state are also studied as well. Therefore the study of political systems includes the study of the public legal system of the state. This formal- legal method is still dominantly practiced in continental Europe which attests to why students of political science are required to study the public legal system as well.
The third and last method used by intitutionalists is the historical-comparative method. This method is accredited to W. Wilson who wrote in his book in 1899 “The State: Elements of Historical and Practical Politics”. In this book he states the importance of the use of thorough comparative and...