Revista de Ciências Políticas e Assuntos Públicos

Revista de Ciências Políticas e Assuntos Públicos
Acesso livre

ISSN: 2332-0761


Critical Comparison of the Strengths and Weaknesses of Positivism and Interpretivism as Two Approaches to the Study of Politics

Balamurugan Kaliyamurthi

Understanding politics gives people a choice between “Bullet or Ballot”. No doubt, Aristotle called politics as the ‘Master Science’. This paper will put positivism and interpretivism approaches side by side and analyse on their merits and constraints for utilising them as a study of politics. To address this, one needs to be clear on the fundamental question of why the study of politics requires different approaches. Ted Benton explains the requirement of a philosophical toolkit to study politics. Society is dynamic due to interaction between individuals, and it is subjected to change which Wright mills calls as social imagination. Fixing on what kind of truth a researcher is searching (for example male/female sex which is a universal truth or gender, a socially constructed truth) and accordingly finding that truth through various ways of knowledge acquisition approaches were evolved for studying social issues. Taking this example, if the search of truth is about sex, the researcher will find knowledge through empirical statistics or if the search is about gender, in the minds of people. These factors led to the evolution of various epistemological approaches. Among them, this paper will critically compare the strength and weakness of positivism and interpretivism. The paper will explain the basic terminologies concerning the topic and will elucidate about positivism and interpretivism. It will proceed to the first section for a critical comparison of the strength and weakness of positivism with respect to interpretivism. In the second section, the strength and weakness of interpretivism will be analysed in critical comparison with positivism. This paper will conclude with a stand that these two are foundational approaches with exclusive merits and the varied mixed approaches having the combined strength of both these approaches (and cancelling their weakness) are evolved and shall be suitably applied for political study.