Beyond the theoretical: What does the world expect from the political scientists of today?

ImageDuring my first year in the university, we were asked if why we chose Political Science as our college degree. When I submitted my accomplished application form in the university four years ago, I ranked Political Science as my first choice (Biochemistry being the second) solely because I was so enamored of the social sciences during my high school days. Paradoxically, politics is my least favorite topic; a strand of thought I am unacquainted to. When it was my turn to answer, it is of no wonder why I stammered; I even did not know how to translate my scattered thoughts to words. Meanwhile, most of my classmates answered impeccably but in a similar fashion: they want to make Political Science as their preparatory course before proceeding to Law. After graduation, they went to law schools.

I do not know if this is a legitimate concern, but no one from the class said that he or she pursued Political Science because he or she wants to become a political scientist someday. I pondered on that thought for a while. Unlike other degree programs, there is no licensure exam for political science graduates in the Philippines. The term “political scientist” is so rarely used in everyday language while the term “political analyst” is so bastardized you can call anyone as such. A passer-by could be surprised that there is such a thing as political science or political science is a branch of science. In this country, political science is commonly referred to as a “Pre-Law” (preparatory course for Law), a mere stepping stone to ascend into a higher pedestal.

Recognized or not, the political scientists not only of this country but also the world have a critical role to play in this rapidly evolving world. While it is our task to DESCRIBE political developments, it is our equally imperative duty to PRESCRIBE proposals and recommendations to further the common good. In one of his theses on Feuerbach, Karl Marx wrote, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” We are overwhelmed by too many theories, obscure or otherwise, which drown our purpose of making this world a better place both for the present generation and posterity. We are so engrossed in explaining the whys, whens, wheres, and hows of things, forgetting in the process the essential questions that need be answered: what should be done, how it should be done, what could possibly be done.

Our knowledge of theories would not go in vain as they deepen our understanding of social phenomena and political processes. But as what the astute Brazilian educator Paulo Freire aptly posits, theories should be coupled with practice and action. The idea of praxis teaches us that theories are repositories of knowledge while practice is where that knowledge could be applied to solve problems. While we could feel the rush of adrenaline every time we analyze the outcomes of and prospects for a recent political phenomenon, immersing ourselves in the realm beyond the theoretical should stir a corresponding amount of interest within us.

The political scientists of today should learn how to step out of their comfort zones, how to get out of their boxes, and how to be bolder. The maladies of this world have gone from bad to worse, and the cure needs more than pen and paper. We do not have the panacea but we could be the remedy. We are not superheroes but we could empower lives. If our goal is to transform the world, regardless of how ludicrous this goal might be, we as political scientists should be at the forefront of the transformation not as passive agents but as active ones. 

 

*This article was published at ‘A Different View’, the official online blog of the International Association for Political Science Students (IAPSS), on 15 February 2014. To read the articles written by my colleagues, click this link: http://iapss.org/index.php/articles

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