The Interpretive Theory in Political Science: Origins and History

Alongside the emergence of behavioralism, structuralism and other recently-formed schools of thought, interpretivism sprouted as a Post-World War approach or framework in conducting political studies and formulating political analyses. The interpretive approach employs the tenets of hermeneutics, symbolic interactionism and phenomenology to explain how people act on their beliefs and principles which they adhere. It also delves into the fundamental inquiry which focuses on how the people attach meanings in their social action (Bevir & Rhodes, as cited in Marsh & Stoker, 2010). A particular phenomenon in the political realm entails multifarious interpretations as each explanation is drawn from different perspectives, reasons and intentions. Whatever may that interpretation be, one thing is certain: “we cannot understand human affairs properly unless we grasp the relevant meanings” (Bevir & Rhodes, as cited in Marsh & Stoker, 2010, p. 131).

The discipline of political science is a manifold witness to interpretation playing a pivotal role in other academic fields such as law, history and philosophy. To illustrate, let the cases of the historians and lawyers be taken into consideration. To be able to understand a particular event which transpired in history, a historian must uncouth the intentions of each character involved in the historical account. More so, historical characters have their motives which guide their actions, placing them in the pages of historical annals. The same is true with lawyers. To be able to apply the laws effectively, a lawyer must know the intent and reason of the legislators on why did they craft that particular law (Bevir & Rhodes, as cited in Marsh & Stoker, 2010).  Indeed, the interpretive thought has long existed not only in the political scholarship but also in other sub-fields of social sciences. As time and modernization progresses, new strands of interpretive theories will emerge and will soon come out into the scholarly realm of political science.


Marsh, D. & Stoker, G. (2010). Theory and Methods in Political Science. Palgrave MacMillian.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s