Political inquiry and Theory Formulation
Altogether, the fundamental goal of political inquiry is to provide understanding and explanation. In doing this, the techniques of discipline ” range from highly mathematical and statistical analyses of objective data (most commonly found in Political sociology), via rather journalistic descriptive accounts of Political institutions, or almost ethnographical accounts foreign cultures, logical and conceptual analysis of Political morality” (Robertson, 1993).
More still, advanced political inquiries may also strive to predict political reality based on the analysis of available facts. As a result of human nature and its complexities, prediction here is still fraught with setbacks. This not withstanding, many political writers have become renowned on account of theft bold and outstanding attempt to predict political reality. This is typically the case with Karl Marx (1818-1883), who in his political theorization did not only predict, but also strove to prescribe the direction in which human society ought to follow or develop. In other words, political inquiry is not only about understanding and explanation of empirical and normative political phenomena; it is also intrinsically linked to generalization and theory formulation.
While arguing in our earlier work that political inquiry is “a handy tool for a veritable political theorization”, it is also emphasized that political inquiry is concerned with the scrutiny of political reality resulting in some cases in development or growth of political theorization (Biereenu-Nnabugwu, 2003) Along this line Frohock (1967) argues much earlier, in his work “The Nature of Political inquiry that political inquiry is tied up with political theory.
In particular he identified five elements of political inquiry that ties it up with political theory as identified and discussed below:
Provides tacit support to theory
Political inquiry provides tacit or indirect support to political theory, does this by examining philosophical frameworks, methodological possibilities and instrumental functions of political theories.
Examines the pattern of explanation
Political inquiry examines the patterns of explanation.This includes functional and causal analysis. It also establishes criteria for determining a proper functioning system.
Investigates the role of science
Another element of political inquiry that ties it up with is that it investigates the role of science and the issue of appropriate theoretical approaches in data gathering and analysis.
Scrutinizes the question of value and facts
It is also part of the task of political inquiry to carefully examine, look into or scrutinize the question of value and facts as they relate to political investigation. The issues of value or fact are important to every investigation.
Discusses foundations of all aspects of inquiry
Political inquiry discusses both the cognitive (related to seeing or hearing) and intuitive (feeling) foundations of all inquiry. Here it also identifies object of study as the common themes in all political inquiry.
The obvious implications of these are that, not only is politic inquiry an investigative process, it is substantially related to political theory building. Stated more incisively, every political inquiry represents a remote or immediate attempt to confirm or invalidate existing political theory or propound a new one.
The aim of theory is to enhance understanding, explanation and possibly prediction and prescription. However, theories do not fall from heaven.They come about through political inquiry. Thus, political inquiry follows due procedure or scientific process in order to formulate theory. As a matter of fact, political inquiry and theory have come to be loosely associated with science. This is because formulation of theory is increasingly relying not only on political inquiry but also on scientific process. Being a key element scientific method, the idea of process hinges on stages. Science is seen largely as knowledge obtained or arrived at after a due process or stages. The process usually entails.
Observation and data collection
It involves observation and collection of relevant data.
Classification of data
It also implies the classification of data into significant categories or groups
Formulation of Hypothesis
This involves the formulation of hypothesis. Hypothesis is usually based on intuition or prima facie observation or analysis of the data.
Planning and execution
The process also entails planning and execution. This experiment is planned and executed so as to test the
Conclusion leads to confirmation or validation, modifications or outright rejection/invalidation of the
hypothesis. If the conclusion confirms the hypothesis
there can then be established theories and law that may have universal application. It is also necessary to point out that laws can be seen as theories that have been confirmed repeatedly.
Definition of Political inquiry
Taking cognisance of the above brief exordial discussion and definitional analysis, political inquiry may validly be seen as an investigative process. It involves inquirer and inquiree; and is ultimately concerned with the provision of basic or applied puzzles using available facts. Taking due cognisance of this and all we have said so, now proffer a re-definition of political inquiry alongside Eboh’s (1998) contribution as: /b/a process of systematic investigation of political phenomena by which we increase our knowledge of how things are, why things are the way they are, and how they might be changed or solved /b/. The efficacy of this re-definition hinges on the fact that while emphasizing inter alia, that political inquiry is a process involving systematic investigation, it enables the political inquirer to appreciate the fact that political inquiry:
- Addresses both how and why questions
- Is interested in finding solutions, provides knowledge
- Recognises that research is a handy tool for change
We may also mention albeit in passing, that the term political inquiry, in other words, political science inquiry , is also often referred to as political science research or simply as political research or simply as political research by some authorities. As argued earlier, we shall use the four terms interchangeably in this work. The next task is to characterize the main forms or levels of political inquiry.
Read also: Examples of Political phenomenon