What is the difference between Behaviouralism vs. Traditionalism?



Behaviouralism was born as a protest movement against the traditionalism. Traditionalism devoted their energy in studying the origin of the state and functions of the government, and various political institutions. They visualised the goals of an ideal state. To materialise their aims, they took the help of History, Political Science and Philosophy.

The rise of behaviouralism marks a new approach in Political Science. They concentrated their attention on the political behaviour and phenomenon. Behaviouralists soon began to criticize the traditional methods and boast of the superiority of their methods.

Behaviouralist criticism of Traditionalism:

The various points on which the behaviouralists have criticised the traditionalists are the following:

(1) Traditionalists emphasise only academic approach:-

The behaviouralists contend that the traditionalists concentrate mainly on theory. They trace the origin of the state, Government and political institutions. They are "idle spectators about human nature, novel gazers and essayists".

The second category of the traditionalists, according to behaviouralists consists of empiricists who are slightly better than the theorists because they collect facts about everything but behaviour. The behaviouralists say that the traditional approaches have no relevance with the current and contemporary issues.

(2) The traditionalists worry about the bigger issues and ignore smaller problems:-

The behaviouralists assail the traditionalists on the ground they take into account only the bigger issues of a general nature and ignore the small problems which actually afflict the society. Willium and Joyce Mitchell have written very beautifully the view point of the behaviouralists, in this regard, "The traditionalists are regarded as primarily interested in recording the uniqueness of the world, values, and not in the construction of a scientific body empirically verified propositions. Their search for 'meaning" "insight" 'essence', is regarded as old fashioned and primitive"

(3) The traditionalists use only metaphorical language:

The behaviouralists contend that the traditionalists only use the literary and metaphorical language to prove their thesis but it is against empirical and scientific conclusions. Willium and Joyce Mitchell have given an extract of the debate between Herbert Swan and Waldo (a traditionalist) in these words: "l do not see how we can progress in political philosophy if we continue to think and write in the loose, literary, metaphorical style that he (Waldo) and most other political theorists adopt".

(4) Historical approach ignores the study of society:

It is regrettable that the historical approach amongst the traditionalists excludes the study of society and concentrate only on the origin and development of the State, Government and political institutions. Thus they do not do full justice to Political Science.

(5) The traditionalists ignore the actual political phenomenon:

The philosophical approach among the traditionalists is particularly based on ideal speculations i.e. they speculate what type of an ideal state should be. They actually ignore the political phenomena.

(6) The traditionalists ignore the political behaviour of the individuals and sociological environment:

The behaviouralists assail the traditionalists on the ground that altogether ignores the political behaviour of the individuals and sociological environments which usually condition political phenomena.

Similarly, the institutionalists amongst the traditionalists concentrate on the origin and growth of political institutions but they ignore the fact that the institutions are actually run by the individuals and their working is moulded by their behaviour.

(7) The traditionalists ignore the international problems:

It is noteworthy that the traditionalists focus their attention only on the national institutions and ignore the study of international institutions and problems which are so important these days. The behaviouralists hold the opinion that political science should pay more attention to the practical aspect rather than the theoretical aspect.

Criticism of the Traditionalists against the behaviouralism: - whereas the behaviouralists have assailed the traditionalists on numerous grounds, the traditionalists have also not remained behind in attacking the behaviouralism on the following grounds:

(1) Mechanical view of man:

The traditionalists contend that the behaviouralists take only a mechanical view of man is always motivated by selfish interests. They ignore human values and norms.

(2) The behaviouralists ignore the bigger issues of the world:

The traditionalists hold the opinion that the behaviouralists focus their attention on petty problems and group behaviour. They ignore the bigger issues of the world, and do not pay any attention to basic ideas and values. In this way they give proof of their lack of insight and understanding into the world problems.

(3) The behaviouralists ignore the theoretical aspect of the subject and concern about techniques only:

Wasby has assailed behaviouralism on the ground that it attaches too much importance to techniques and does not bother about results. We should not ignore this point that the behaviouralists rather than facing the burning problems of the Third World have chosen only such subjects for research where better techniques are available in U.S.A. They do not bother about the mass unemployment, poverty and hunger and near famine conditions of the Third World.

(4) Human behaviour cannot be generalised:

The traditionalists firmly hold the opinion that human behaviour can never be generalised as the behaviouralists do. Consequently, Bertrand Jouvenel remarks: "The instability of behaviour is a great difficulty for political provision. We know, of course, that a man's behaviour is variable but in no realm it is as variable as in the political field".

(5) The behaviouralists give attention only to statistics (figures) and not the ideals:-

The behaviouralists worry only about numbers and Joyce Mitchell writes: "The behaviouralist is engaged in great numbers game literally and figuratively. In the former instance, he seems to believe that nothing is meaningful unless it has been reduced to statistics or equations. In the figurative sense, he is common for the confounds the innocent especially businessmen, with his special form of magic and numbo jumbo".

They further hold:

While this vogue holds sway for the moment with foundations and some professional organisations, its day will be short and political science will return to sanity".

(6) Study of Politics can never be value-free:

The traditionalists contend that the study of politics can never be value-free as held by behaviouralists because facts cannot be separated from values. Sibley holds that behaviouralists themselves attach value when selecting a topic for research. They make selection on the basis the value held by them.

While it is true that the behaviour of the behaviouralists? Sibley remarks. "It would seem that, although the observer can provide scientific account of those he observes, he cannot explain-by behavioural methods as usually understood-his own behaviour as observer".

(7) Defective analysis:

Bay also holds that the analysis of the behaviouralists is quite defective because they consider American institutions as the best in the world and they make behaviouralism as a tool to prove the goodness of those institutions. Leo Strauss also holds that the behaviouralists are biased more in favour of democracy and status quo. In this way behaviouralism advocates American interests rather the universal interests. Consequently, it is pseudo-analysis (Deceptive analysis)

(8) The behaviouralists ignore the study of the institutions and emphasise unnecessarily the behaviouralist effect:

The behaviouralists confine their study to the political behaviour and ignore altogether the study political science is incomplete without the study of these things. Moreover the behaviouralists.

Not only that while studying the voting behaviour, they have not given any heed to the study of such factors as registration requirements and forms of ballot because we have to cancel those voters who are not properly registered and those votes which are not properly cast.