Political Science



Political Science, the systematic study of and reflection upon politics. Politics usually describes the processes by which people and institutions exercise and resist power. Political processes are used to formulate policies, influence individuals and institutions, and organize societies.

Many political scientists study how governments use politics. But political scientists also study politics in other contexts, such as how politics affects the economy, how ordinary people think and act in relation to politics, and how politics influences organizations outside of government. The emphasis upon government and power distinguishes political science from other social sciences, although political scientists share an interest with economists in studying relations between the government and economy, and with sociologists in considering relations between social structures in general and political structures in particular. Political scientists attempt to explain and understand recurrent patterns in politics rather than specific political events.



Political science is important because politics is important. During the 20th century, tens of millions of people were murdered by regimes devoted to particular political ideologies. All peoples’ lives are affected in many ways by what governments do or choose not to do, and by the power structures that exist in society.

The specific ideas of political scientists are only occasionally implemented by policy makers. Political scientists usually influence the world in more indirect ways: by educating citizens and political leaders, by contributing to debates on political issues, and by encouraging different ways of looking at the world. The study of political science is motivated by the need to understand the sources and consequences of political stability and revolution, of repression and liberty, of equality and inequality, of war and peace, of democracy and dictatorship. The study of political science suggests that the world of politics is complex and cannot be reorganized by simple ideological schemes without unintended consequences.



Most professional political scientists work in colleges and universities where they teach, conduct research, and write articles and books related to their specific research interests. Political scientists also work in policy-related think tanks, privately funded organizations that conduct and publicize research on public policy issues. Examples of such organizations include The Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute. Political parties and survey-research organizations frequently employ political scientists to design and interpret opinion surveys. Businesses employ political scientists to provide information on the political contexts in which corporations operate. Governments employ political scientists as assistants to legislators, as staff members of administrative departments such as the United States Department of State, and in international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU). Some political scientists become politicians or journalists. One political scientist, Woodrow Wilson, became president of the United States.