The Difference Between Political Science and Politics

How often do we come across phrases like ‘that was such a politically correct statement’ or how conveniently people label others as ‘politician’ when they see them changing colors or going back on their words? Such norms along with the way the majority of our modern day politicians approach their work ethic are things that have negatively and quite brutally tarnished the term ‘politics’. Political science and politics, despite whatever we see or hear around us, are terms with a lot more depth to them then often understood. Let’s explore them and analyze the difference between political science and politics.  

Definition of Political Science

Like all sciences, Political Science is a study. It is a discipline of sociology that deals with the study of the state, nation, government, public and political policies and political activities.

Subfields of Political Sciences

  • Political theory: also known as Political Philosophy deals with the background and understanding of different forms of political systems either as proposed by previous political scientists or the ones being practiced in the modern world. Examples of political theory include democracy, autocracy, federalism and centralism. Political history: as the name implies it deals with the study of archives, chronicles and records which provide political insights about the systems of government established and practiced by past rulers and governors.
  • Political ideology: deals with the structural blueprints of a socio-political order on the basis of which a certain group, community or state is run. It includes but is not limited to the ideas, beliefs, doctrines, laws and even myths that suggest how a society should work and function.
  • Policy studies and analysis: Policies are made in order to ensure the smooth working of any government. This discipline of political science deals with the understanding of the numerous policies of the past and present, analyzing and accessing them in order to either nullify them, improve them or strengthen them with the aim of bringing welfare to the community and people.
  • International relations: as the name implies it is how different states or nations interact with one another. The agreements and contracts which are signed in order to ensure mutual benefits and shouldering responsibility for collective regional or global issues like environmental preservation, climate change or simply the exchange of resources or goods across borders.

Common Ideologies in Political Science

Liberalism: includes the classical liberalism (promotes individual freedom and condemns the intervention of state) proposed by John Locke and Adam Smith and the modern liberalism (this ideology supports the state’s invention at some levels in order to ensure social balance and prevent individuals to override the rights of others) of T. H. Green.

Conservatism: Such systems aim to preserve the unity and integrity of the community and to provide resistance to change which threatens to weaken the existing institutions.

Socialism: as the name implies believes that societies are better governed by policies which focus on the collective needs of the society rather than the individual needs of people.

Fascism: goes one step further then socialism and argues that neither the community nor the society but the state is the one which should exercise total and absolute control over the population. This school of thought followed famously by Benito Mussolini (1883–1945) and Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) does not support equality and may even advocate racism and nationalism.

Feminism: is modern day ideology which advocates for equal and just system of government for men and women. It demands that gender discrimination be abolished at every level and women be respected, honored and acknowledged for their contributions to household, society and even the state.

Environmentalism: A rather crucial ideology for the modern world as it promotes and emphasizes the need to conserve ecosystem health and well-beings. It breaks through the shackles of gender and age and call upon all people to play their part in preserving our natural environment. 

A Brief History of Political Science

  • The Hammurabi’s codes – Hammurabi was the ruler of Mesopotamia in 1780 B.C. He was one of the first rulers to offer a written public code of conduct postulating nearly 300 laws imperative for the proper and prosperous functioning of the society. The laws addressed issues dealing with marriage, property, business, taxes, loans, wages, military services and even divorce.  The phrase ‘eye for an eye’ is assumed to be originated from Hammurabi’s code of conduct. He introduced the presumption of innocence and the opportunity to present evidence.
  • Greek Philosophers 300 – 400 B.C
    • Socrates, Plato and Aristotle: Although Socrates has not written a word about political science his influence in the life of Plato and subsequently Aristotle’s is undeniable, which is why his name often makes it to the list of people who impacted the evolution of political science.
    • Plato: A student of Socrates wrote his well-known work of that time The Republic, which was greatly influenced by Socrates’s instructions. Plato explains in his work that the ‘commonwealth’ should be operated by the eligible, educated and just guardians of the law. The guardians must serve the people and ensure that the commonwealth is rightly handled and distributed and no harm comes to it. His work emphasizes the balance between how vulnerable the wealth may be to the curse of corruptibility and how the democracy of the people should also be subjected to accountability. Other important factors covered in The Republic were the equality for women and free-speech.
    • Aristotle: was Plato’s pupil and wrote ‘Politics’ in which he introduced the concept of a constitutional government that combined monarchy(rule of one) aristocracy (rule of a few, democracy (rule of the people/many). He explains that only people who owned land were eligible enough to be called citizens of a country and be a part of the government, participating in the democracy of the state. Other ethnicities like slaves, lower class and foreigners were not citizens but merely a necessity to ensure the proper functioning of the state affairs. He also favored capitalism over communism.

Definition of Politics

The word Politics has its roots in the Greek vocabulary. Originating from the Greek word ‘politikos’, literally meaning ‘of, for or relating to citizens’. Politics is the implementation of political science. It comes into existence when a group of people with a similar agenda but different mindsets come together, discuss an issue (es), make compromises and agree upon a consensus.

  • Autocratic: It is the government of few who are stronger than the rest. Those superior few, seize power by the action of physical force or threat. It is one of the oldest forms of political systems.
  • Dictatorship is a form of an autocratic political system where power resides with one individual or a group of individuals such as the military who dictates the terms of rule to the citizens, to which they all must oblige or face unfortunate consequences.
  • Monarchy is also a conservative or traditional form of autocratic rule where a certain family is considered fit to rule the others just because they have been doing so for many decades.
  • Democratic: was best described by the American president Abraham Lincoln who said “It is the government of the people, by the people, for the people” It is when eligible members of the community campaign for convincing masses as to why they are the best candidate for a given position and are then elected by virtue of vote.

Key Concepts in Politics:

  • Power: forms the fundamental base of autocratic systems but also has its branches spread into the otherwise democratic systems. Whatever form of government it might be, in the end, it all operates by legitimizing the power that a person, or a set of people have over the masses.
  • Persuasion: It is when you exercise non-physical means to exert power i.e. you persuade or convince the subjects that handing over the reins to a certain person or set will be in their best interest.
  • Manipulation: is a nastier version of persuasion which involves exploiting a certain disadvantage which a group might have and using it to establish rule over them. But this again does not involve violence or physical abuse of power. It is merely a game of words and tactics.
  • Exchange: It is when the ruler ensures that if the subjects abide by their rule they might be rewarded in some way.

Similarities Between Political Science and Politics

Both politics and political sciences are human activities existing and evolving continuously to efficiently manage the affairs of the states and interstates. They both involve practitioners, policymakers and scientists as the main key players. They are both constantly evolving disciplines in which there is always space for improvement and rectification. 

Difference Between Political Science and Politics

Despite both being human activities, political science is an academic field of study which involves reviewing, investigating and analyzing the patterns of work upon which the basis of politics is set. Whereas, politics is the behavior which people, rulers or state adapts after or due to the influence of political science. The behavior, however, has to be that which has an effect on the working of the state. Politics is the process of administrative and legislative interactions and political science is the study of those behaviors.


As a bottom line, it won’t be wrong to say that one gives rise to the other and they both go hand in hand. Understanding the difference and acknowledging the importance of both is imperative. 

What do you think?

Written by Spencer K