Post-Behaviouralism: Causes and Characteristics of Post Behaviouralism



Causes for the Growth of Post-Behaviouralism:

1. Failure of behaviouralism to look to the practical problems of the world:

While behaviouralism was a movement against traditionalism, the post- behaviouralism was also a movement against behaviouralism itself but instead of condemning either of the two methods of thought, it was a synthesis between the two contending schools of thought. Behaviouralism was not a new discipline; rather it was just a new technique, a new approach, with a new focus in view for the study of political science.

The traditional approaches such as philosophical, historical and institutional did not worry about human behaviour or group-behaviour and neglected the scientific analysis of the human problems. Therefore the people, first of all welcomed found that it failed to solve any problem of the world such as threat of nuclear war, hunger, poverty, disease etc. Therefore post-behaviouralism rose against it.

2. David Easton on the failure of behaviouralism:

David Easton, one of the founders of the behaviouralist school of thought got disillusioned with behaviouralism which dominated Political Science from the middle of fifties upto the close of sixties. In his presidential address to the Annual Convention of the American Political Science Association held in 1969, Easton declared that "he felt dissatisfied with the political research and teaching made under the impact of behaviouralism.

The behavioural approach was trying to convert the study of politics into a discipline based on the methodology of natural sciences. Mathematics was making its way in political science to the extent that it began to look more of mathematics than a science related to the realities of social life. In their efforts at research and application of scientific methods, the behaviouralists had gone for away from the realities of social behaviour. In this way political science again lost touch with the current and contemporary world".

3. Over-emphasis of the Behaviouralists on research methods and tools:

Behaviouralism was anxious to develop new research methods and techniques about political phenomena so that in political science also theories may be developed like natural science but in their efforts they divorced political science from philosophy, history and law.

With the advance of time, the behaviouralists lost touch with the realities of life altogether. Consequently, Right-thinking behaviouralists like David Easton found that they had been wasting their precious time only in developing methodological techniques and in refining their research tools.

4. Dissatisfaction with behaviouralism led to the growth of post- behaviouralism:

The people soon got fed up with behaviouralism which failed to solve any practical problem of the world even after spending crores of rupees on research in regard to developing new methodology and techniques. Therefore post- behaviouralism arose as a protest-movement against behaviouralism.

5. Failure of the behaviouralists to convert Political Science into a problem solving science:

The behaviouralists devoted themselves in building up various paradigms, conceptual frame works, models, theories and metatheories and spent huge amount and precious time but did little thing to solve social, political, economic and cultural crisis of the world.

The post-behaviouralists asked what was the use of the research of the behaviouralists when they did not take into account acute social maladies and the growing dangers of nuclear and thermo-nuclear war. They contended that there was absolutely no use of developing high technical adequacy and sophisticated research tools if the political scientists was unable to understand contemporary social and political problems.

Characteristics or Features of Post-Behaviouralism:

The characteristics of post-behaviouralism are the following:

(1) Opposition to value-free social science:

The post-behaviouralists are deadly opposed to the attempts of the behaviouralists in making Political Science as value-free science. David Easton observes: "Research about and constructive development of values were inextinguishable part of the study of politics. Science cannot be and never has been evaluating neutral despite protestations to the contrary. Hence, to understanding the limits of our knowledge we need to be aware of the value premises on which it stands and alternatives for which this knowledge could be used".

(2) A Movement of Protest:

The critics asserted that the behaviouralists who boasted of their relevance to the actual political problems have themselves cut off from the realities of life and are following academic detachment. David Easton asserted that role of the intellectuals has been and must be to protect human values of civilization.

Therefore the behaviouralists should concentrate on it but they have utterly failed to realise this goal. Dwight Waldo has also asserted: "political scientists should be more concerned with values, with issues of justice, freedom, equality with political activity. In a period of stress, turmoil and gross inequalities, it is irresponsible to carry on as usual in academic, detachment. At minimum, political scientist-need to be concerned with issues of public policy and political reform". Therefore the post-behaviouralists assert that the Political Science must be relevant to society and it must deliberate over such basic issues of society such as justice, liberty, equality, democracy etc.

(3) Intellectual Movements:

It must be remembered that the post-behaviouralism is not confined to a particular section of society. It is a sort of intellectual movement and its followers can be found amongst all sections of the society," in all generations from young graduates to old members of the profession". Post-behaviouralism is thus both a movement and intellectual tendency.

(4) Post-behaviouralists look to the future well-being of the society:

Though the post-behaviouralists prefer the behavioural approach than the traditional approach because it is empirical yet they want to link their methods of research in making such theories which may be able to solve the present and future problems of the society. In other words they want to make the methods and technology of the behaviouralists related to the future well-being in society.

In this regard David Easton observes:

"Although the post-behavioural revolution may have all the appearances of just another reaction to behaviouralists, it is in fact notably different Behaviouralism was viewed as a threat to status quo, classicism and traditionalism. The post-behavioural revolution is, however, future-oriented. It does not seek to return to some golden age of political research or to conserve or even to destroy a particular methodological approach. It seeks rather to probe Political Science in new direction".

Characteristics of post-behaviouralism as given by David Easton:

David Easton who once described eight main characteristics of behaviouralism and called them the "intellectual foundation stones" of the movement, now come out with seven major traits of post-behaviouralism and described them as the "Credo of Relevance" or a "distillation of the maximal image".

They can be summarised and used as follows:

(1) Substance must have precedence over technique:

David Easton holds the view that substance must have precedence over techniques. It may be good to have sophisticated tools of investigation but the most important point was the purpose to which these tools were applied.

Unless the scientific research was relevant and meaningful for contemporary urgent social problems, it was not worth being undertaken. To the slogan raised by the behaviouralists that it was better to be wrong than vague, the post-behaviouralists raised the counter-slogan that it was better to be vague than non-relevantly precise.

(2) Emphasis should be on social change and not social preservation:

The post-behaviouraiists say that the contemporary political science should place its main emphasis on social change, not social preservation as the behaviouralists seemed to be doing. The behaviouralists had confined themselves exclusively to the description and analysis of facts, without taking sufficient care to understand these facts in their broad social context, which have made behavioural Political Science" an ideology of social conservatism tempered by modest incremental change".

(3) Political Science should not lose touch with brute realities of politics:

The behaviouralists had lost touch with 'brute realities of polities'. The behaviouralists concentrated their efforts on abstraction and analysis. Because of the acute problems and dangers of the world, it was no longer possible for political scientists to close their eyes to the realities of the situation.

The western world, though possessed of enormous wealth and technical resources, yet it was moving towards increasing social conflicts and deepening fear and anxieties about the future. The vital question arose if political scientists did not find the solution of the ills of society and needs of mankind, then what was the use of the research of the behaviouralists?

(4) Political Science should not be value-free:

The behaviouralists laid special emphasis on scientism and value-free approaches and totally ignored the role of values. The people did not like it because all knowledge had stood on value premises. There is no denying the fact that the values played a significant role in political research and the values were the propelling force behind knowledge. In the wake of scientific research, the values could not be ignored. The post behaviouraiists firmly hold this view that if knowledge was to be used for right goals, value also had to be restored to their proper place.

(5) Political Scientists must protect human values of civilization:

The post- behaviouralists argue that the political scientists, being intellectuals must protect and promote the humane values of civilization. If the political scientists continued to keep themselves away from the social problems, they would become mere technicians, mechanics for tinkering with society. Under these circumstances, they would be unable to claim-the privilege of freedom of enquiry and a quasi-extra territorial protection from the onslaughts of society.

(6) Post-behaviouralism emphasises action in place of contemplative science:

The post-behaviouralists contend that the behaviouralists cannot keep themselves away from action when they are doing the research. Their research has to be put to social use. "To know" as Easton points out, "is to bear the responsibility for acting and to act is to engage in reshaping society".

The post-behaviouralists argue that the contemplative science might have been good in the nineteenth century when there was a broader moral agreement among nations, but it was completely out of place in the contemporary society which was sharply divided over ideals and ideology.

They say that the behaviouralists should concentrate their attention more and more upon action and not only on contemplative science. Their entire research should be oriented towards studying the social and political ills of the society and the methods to remove them.

(7) Urgent need to politicise the profession:

Once it is admitted that the political scientists, being intellectuals, have a positive role to play in the society, then in order to achieve that goal it becomes inevitable that all the professional associations as well as the universities must be politicised.


The behaviouralists argue that science had some ideal commitments and that behaviouralism shared these ideal commitments of science. This thesis of the behaviouralists is not acceptable to the post-behaviouralists.

They think that the technical research and scientific knowledge pursued by the behaviouralists should not be cut off from the realities of life. It should be related to urgent social problems and aim at solving some problems. The objective of political scientists should never be mere stability or the maintenance of the status quo.

The approach of political scientists should be dynamic. If the present crisis in society arose out of deep social conflicts, these conflicts have to be resolved. If the solution of these conflicts required breaking up of the existing political order, then the political scientists should make vigorous demand for it. He should not be merely content with mere suggestions for reforms.