Copyright

Approaches to Political Theory: Normative and Empirical

Approaches to Political Theory: Normative and Empirical
Coming up next: What is Government? - Definition, Role & Functions

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Political Theory Defined
  • 0:38 Empirical Theory
  • 1:53 Normative Theory
  • 2:37 Interaction of Approaches
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
Theories attempt to explain the world around us. In this lesson, you'll learn about political theory. An overview of the normative and empirical approaches to political theory will also be examined. A short quiz follows.

Political Theory Defined

Elaine and Nathan are professors of political science at a university. They both focus their studies on political theory, which is the study of the ideas and values concerning concepts of the state, power, individuals, groups and the relationship between them. Furthermore, political theory is not only concerned with how these relationships work, but also how they ought to work.

Even though Elaine and Nathan both study political theory, they take different approaches. Let's take a quick look at each.

Empirical Theory

Elaine focuses her studies and research on empirical political theory. In the simplest terms, empirical political theory is focused on explaining 'what is' through observation. In this approach, scholars seek to generate a hypothesis, which is a proposed explanation for some phenomena that can be tested empirically. After formulating a hypothesis, a study will be designed to test the hypothesis. Let's look at an example.

Elaine is interested in the role of money in modern Senate elections. She develops a hypothesis that candidates who spend more money on their campaigns than their opponents will win. Elaine then goes about designing a study to test her hypothesis by examining election results and campaign finance reporting disclosures. Elaine must be careful to control for other variables that may affect the result, such as incumbency, and focus on states with a relatively equal balance of political party membership. After collecting the data, she will determine through statistical analysis if it tends to support or not support her hypothesis.

Normative Theory

Nathan's focus is on normative political theory. While empirical political theory is concerned with 'what is,' normative political theory is concerned with 'what ought to be.' In other words, normative political theory is concerned about how the world should be and focuses on the exploration of values and what should be done based upon those values.

Nathan is also interested in the role of money in democratic elections. However, remember that his focus is on normative theory. So while Elaine wants to explore whether candidates that spend more, win more, Nathan explores whether the influence of money in modern campaigns is a threat to the American values of democratic choice and fair, open elections.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support