10 Criticism Against the Behaviouralism – Explained!



In spite of its achievements, the behaviouralist school of politics has been criticised strongly. So strong is the criticism that the whole discipline of political science seems to be divided into "Behaviouralists" and "anti-behavioulists". The behaviouralists have been strongly criticising the traditionalists, so is the case with the traditionalists also.

For example, Kirkpatrick holds that any debate about the behavioural methods and techniques is in fact a discussion more often aimed at defeating traditionalists than at clarifying issues. On the other hand, Washy says, "the behaviouralist approach to the study of politics has now become established. Major front line battles between the behaviouralists receded into minor skirmishes, although the fighting has not totally died down."

Behaviouralism has been generally criticised on the following points:

1. Behaviouralism concerns more with Techniques than Results:

Wasby has criticised bshaviouralism on the ground that the behaviouralists attach too much importance to the techniques and methods and do not worry at all about the theoretical importance of the subject.

While doing the research, the behaviouralists have chosen only such topics for research in which better techniques are available and they have ignored the rest. Besides that they have not bothered about the results.

2. Behaviouralism as pseudo-Politics:

Bay in his article, "A Critical Evaluation of Behavioural Literature", makes distinction between politics and pseudo-politics. He defines as political "all activity aimed at improving or projecting conditions for the satisfaction of human needs and demands in a given society or community according to some universalistic scheme of priorities implicit or explicit."

Pseudo-political, according to him refers to activity that resembles political activity but is exclusively concerned with either alleviation of personal neurosis or with promoting private or private interest group advantage determined by no articulate or disinterested conception of what should be just or fair to other group.

In simple words, politics should aim at the promotion of universal interests. But the behaviouralists only look to the American interests as they consider the American institutions as the best and they use their methods to prove these institutions as better than the institutions of other countries.

Therefore S. M. Lipset suggests that the "age old search for the good society can be terminated, for we have got it now. Democracy as we know, it is the good society itself in operation". Leo Strauss also holds that the behaviouralists are biased more in favour of democracy and status quo. In this way, behaviouralism advocates personal or private interests at the cost of universal interests. It is thus pseudo politics.

3. Behaviouralism emphasises the importance of behavioural effect at the cost of institutional effects:

It should be noted particularly that American behaviouralists have altogether neglected the effects of the institutions upon the society and concentrated their efforts only at the behavioural aspect of the individuals and groups confined mainly to America.

Even the voting behaviour upon which the American behaviouralists lay special emphasis ignores many aspects such as the invalidation of votes on account of their being defaced or the loss of a vote for not getting oneself registered.

This is Wasby says, "The fact that almost all early studies of voting behaviour took place in the United States or within single communities or States made it easy for researchers to forget the possible effects of institutional environment on electoral activity".

4. Study of politics can never be value-free:

The critics of behaviouralism contend that politics can never be value-free as held by the behaviouralists. For example, Sibley contends that the very selection of subjects for investigation is determined by values. Sibley criticises the behaviouralists in the following words:

"Values are prior to investigation, whether in politics or any other area. The political investigator, no less than others, must have some notion of his own order of priorities before he proceeds to use the behavioural or any other approach. He presumably holds, that 'political' sphere is more important for him to investigate than any other area. Whatever the reasons for his judgement, imputations of value are always present."

Arnold Brecht in his book 'Political Theory' also holds the same view. Brecht enunciates two propositions:

1. The question whether some thing is "valuable" can be answered significantly only in relation to

(a) some goal or purpose for the pursuit of which it is not useful (valuable), or to

(b) the ideas held by person or group of persons regarding what is or is not valuable, and that consequently

2. It is impossible to establish scientifically what goals or purposes are valuable irrespective of:

(a) The value they have in pursuit of their goals or purposes, or

(b) Of some one's ideas about ulterior goals or purposes."

To prove that the study of politics cannot be "value-free", Sibley says that it is impossible to study the behaviour (value-biases) of the behaviouralist himself. "It would seem that, altogether the observer can provide scientific accounts of those he observes, he cannot explain by behavioural methods as usually understood-his own behaviour as an observer. He might, indeed, provide an interesting hypothesis to explain his conduct but this could hardly be verified by the statistical and other methods which he uses to study the behaviour of groups".

5. Behaviouralism emphasises static rather than current situations:

Behaviouralists have been concentrating their study mainly on the static subjects rather on the current problems. In the beginning they justified this step by saying that they were filling the gap left by the institutionalism but now it cannot be justified as the burning problems such as the threat of nuclear war, hunger, famine, under­nourishment etc. The behaviouralists have so far ignored all these urgent problems because that does not suit their study.

6. Difficulties in studying ever changing behaviour:

It is very difficult to study the ever changing behaviour of man because the emotions, ideas and thinking go on changing continuously. Therefore, absolutely no correct prediction can be made about the behaviour of man. Moreover, it is very difficult to measure the role 01 various factors governing the behaviour of man.

7. Behavioural research depends too much on other sciences:

Political Science is depending upon other social sciences particularly sociology and anthropology and borrowing so much from them that it is apprehended that the very identity, integrity and autonomy of Political Science may be lost. Inter­disciplinary approach can be helpful in understanding many political problems but it cannot solve all the complexities about human behaviour.

8. No emphasis on Applied Research:

The behaviouralists lay too much emphasis upon research regarding the political behaviour of man but do not apply that research to the current problems. There it is not much useful.

9. Limited knowledge:

Behavioural experiments provide only a limited knowledge regarding the political behaviour of man. It does not provide real knowledge to solve the urgent problems facing the world at large.

10. Demarcation of boundaries amongst different social sciences:

There must be clear cut boundaries amongst different social sciences because the sociologists, anthropologists, economists and historians have no adequate knowledge of Political Science. The scholars belonging to other social sciences cannot be allowed to dominate Political Science. Prof. Sibley has already warned of this danger.