Definition of Government As An Academic Field Of Study
Meaning of Government as an Academic Field of Study
Government is a subject which is studied in our senior secondary schools. It is also a social science discipline, which is offered in the university’s although it bears different names such as Political Science or Political Studies or Politics in these institutions.
It must be admitted, however, that the scope of discipline is wider than the latter. In the main, a student of Government or Politics would likely offer courses in the following Fields during his course of study.
- Study of Constitutions
Government is closely associated with the study of constitutions. Government deals with the study of the various institution which men have setup to realize their common objectives and how these institutions are controlled. It is also concerned with the individuals selected or elected to control these institutions. The method for controlling these institutions are embodied in the constitution of a country.
A constitution therefore describes the different institution of government, their functions and powers, the limits on the exercise of their powers and the rights and duties of the citizens. Students of Government study constitutions and the role of individuals in the operation of constitutions
- Political Theory
The constitution of a state may be derived from two major sources, namely;
- The constitutions of other countries and
- The writings of political philosophers.
Political Theory is based on the writings of political philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and Jacques Rousseau. Political Theory is a body of doctrine dealing with the nature of man as well as the origin, form, behavior and purpose of the States. Most of these doctrines are based on observable facts while others are essentially speculative.
The writings of the great political theories are of interest to students as the concepts developed by them are the underlying principles in the formulation of constitutions. There is hardly any constitution, for instance, that does not embody principles like the rule of law, separation of powers, checks and balances, social contract, consent etc.
- Political Sociology
Political Sociology deals with the application of sociological and psychological principles to the understanding of the behaviour of human beings in the political arena. It helps the students to understand why individuals and groups behave in a particular way in politics. It provides answers to questions like: Why do people fit in a certain way? Why is it that men are generally more interested in politics than women? Why are lower class voters more radical in their political views than middle-class voters? Why do people, especially in 3rd World Countries, distrust politicians? Why is it that political leaders in developing countries tend to aggrandise self of group interest rather than national interests?
- Public Administration
Public Administration is the study of the public bureaucracy are the administrative machinery of government. In the study of government, public administration covers the civil service, public corporations and the local government.
The average student is familiar with these bodies as they are the nearest manifestation of government. The ordinary man has regular contact with these bodies. Most of the public schools, universities, airport, hospitals, roads, bridges, railways, markets, and public utilities such as water, electricity, telephone and postage are provided and managed by public enterprises. Many people tend to use the performance of these bodies to assess the performance of government. In the case of a country like Nigeria where the public bureaucracy is perceived as generally inefficient, government is by logical extension indicted.
- International Relations
Government also covers the study of international relations and institutions. In international relations, the focus is on the analysis of the behaviour of states in the international system and the factors which determine their behaviour.
The student would need to know the purpose, structure, principal organs, achievements and problems of international institutions such as the United Nations Organisation (UNO), the Commonwealth, the African Union (AU), the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Economic Community of West African states (ECOWAS) and the whole of his own country in this institutions.
- Political Economy
Another area of interest to the student of government is Political Economy. This sub-field deals with the relationship between Politics and Economic. It studies how political influences economics and how economics affects politics. Some of the subjects studied in political economy include public finance, budgeting, social welfare and the relationship between government and the business.
Students should know that politics and economics were the same discipline until they were separated in the late 19th century.