Overview

A political scientist is a person who studies government, political processes and political issues in a scientific way, often within the context of an academic institution. This field of study encompasses many things besides the formal institutions of government. Formal laws are indeed studied, but so are things like public opinion, parties and economics. As a science, the study of politics in an academy strives to be systematic, objective and impartial. Randomness and subjectivity are avoided, while personal biases and partisan views are kept out of the process. A political scientist can give opinions as well as conclusions, but they are always based on fact and supported by evidence and reasoning.

The field is diverse and includes many different subfields. Some political scientists specialize in the study of a single country's unique institutions, such as in the study of American Government. Then there is the subfield of Comparative Politics, which compares different systems like democracies, republics, monarchies, etc. Political Economy is the subfield that deals with economic policy, such as fiscal, monetary and stabilization measures, as well as public regulation of industry. Foreign policy, military questions, national security, trade policy and international finance would generally fall under the category of International Relations. Finally, there are the two closely related subfields of Political Theory and Philosophy. These two areas would deal with more philosophical and analytical questions like justice and rights, and how these concepts would be applied to current institutions; for example, the ways in which political reform might lead to a more just or efficient arrangement of society.

Next: What does a Political Scientist do?

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