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A Half Century Of Political Science

The ReviewThe Review
Indiana University
Alumni Association of the College of Arts and Sciences—Graduate School
November 1, 1964
Vol. VII, No 1

A Half Century Of Political Science
The first graduate assistant in political science at Indiana University returned to the campus in 1956 and five years later became Distinguished Service Professor of Government

It is always in order to look back over the accomplishments of the preceding half century. It is especially appropriate at this time to review developments in political science at Indiana University. For the present academic year is the fiftieth in the life of the Department of Government, the teaching faculty that has primary responsibility for instruction in government, politics, and public affairs.

Provision for political science in the curriculum of Indiana University did not begin with the establishment of a separate Department of Political Science in the spring of 1914. American Constitutional Law seems to have been the subject of lectures or courses continuously since about 1830, and International Law became a regular offering within another decade. A course entitled Civil Polity appeared in the curriculum immediately before the Civil War, and from that time on students at Indiana have been presented with a subject matter that stands today at the center of the discipline of political science.

In 1881-82 most of the courses then offered which fit the modern conception of political science were assigned to a newly created Department of History, and four years later (1885-86) the name of that department was changed to Department of History and Political Science. Courses relating to government, politics, and public affairs increased during the next thirty years. In the spring of 1914, effective for the next academic year, a separate Department of Political Science came into existence. At the end of the year 1933-34, the name of the department was changed from Political Science to Government, its present name.


Many readers of The Review will remember the three men who were the faculty of political science during the first years of the Department's separate existence: Amos S. Hershey, Frank G. Bates, and Ernest M. Linton. This trio remained the main stay of the department until 1931 when illness, closely followed by his death, removed Professor Hershey from the group. His treatise, Essentials of International Public Law, published in 1912, made him world famous. Professor Bates retired from the faculty in 1939 and Professor Linton at the end of 1953. Professor Bates' principal contribution to political science at Indiana, perhaps, was his encouragement and development of service for state and local public officials, an interest and activity that culminated in the creation of a Bureau of Government Research. Professor Linton, now living in Bloomington, may have been known to more Indiana University students than either of the other two founders of the Department, for he was an unusually popular instructor in Extension courses throughout the state as well as in Bloomington.

The teaching, public service, and other activities of the Political Science (now Government) Department of Indiana University have undergone a remarkable expansion since the Department was created in 1914, and the faculty has increased accordingly. A Bureau of Government Research was established in 1936 and an Institute of Training for Public Service was created ten years later. These two organizations for public service were combined in 1963 and now operate under the title of Institute of Public Administration. In 1955 Indiana University, acting in cooperation with the federal aid program of the United States Government, entered into a contract with the Government of Thailand and Thammasat University (in Bangkok) for a variety of services designed to improve the quality of public administration in that country. In 1959 a contract having the same general objective was negotiated with the Government of Indonesia. In each instance, the Department of Government provided the instruction, counsel, and technical assistance called for by the contract. These engagements have now terminated.

Innovations in research and teaching activities may be of greater importance than the special activities just noted, but they are too numerous for detailed comment. They include the establishment of a Russian and East Europe Institute (given this name in 1959), an Asian Studies Program (bearing this name since 1960), and an African Studies Program (active since 1961). All of these programs and organizations are universitywide in their subject matter and personnel, but in each of them the Department of Government is a leading participant. Most significant of the special organizations for research is a temporary association of faculty members who are interested in comparative study of public administration and study of problems encountered by populations in transition to modern industrial organization. These inquiries are made possible by substantial grants from two of the nation's leading foundations.

The Department's faculty and administrative staff have grown with these cumulating and expanding activities. Starting with three men in 1914-15, the faculty (under the leadership of Ford P. Hall, Oliver P. Field, and Roy V. Peel) had grown to eleven when the GIs began to crowd the campus in the fall of 1946. This invasion may be said to have inaugurated the present era of the American state university. The enrollment in political science courses at Indiana University this fall is approximately three times what it had been in the last year before World War II, and the faculty actively engaged in teaching on the Bloomington campus has risen to approximately ten times the original complement of three men who founded the Department fifty years ago.


Similar growth in activities and faculty characterizes most departments of the University. All departments instruct more students today than they did fifty years ago. In all fields of study the scope of inquiry has broadened in keeping with new conceptions of where significant knowledge is to be found. The experience of political science during the past half century is of more than ordinary interest, however, for this is a discipline that has undergone an unusual amount of reorientation and change. We may examine these changes under three heads.

First, the range of exploration. Fifty years ago the political scientist held forth to describe the governmental structure and ex­ plain the workings of the political process in the United States, Great Britain and its dominions, France, and Germany. Unless he had made a special effort to find out, the political scientist knew very little about how government was organized, what it did, and how it was controlled in the other European countries, Russia, the Far East, or anywhere else in the world. In describing a government, the early textbooks and courses placed great emphasis on formal organization and basic relationships among the parts of a political system. They told the student a great deal about the anatomy of governments, very little about the physiology. The student learned how authority to make laws was distributed among the branches of a government, but very little about opportunities for exerting influence on the lawmakers. The main features of party organization and election laws were presented, but little was said about how the programs of political parties were formulated, how men were lifted up to candidacy for public office, or how candidates, party leaders and party workers united their resources in an effort to capture control of a government.

The understanding of formal organization and basic political relationships which was the distinctive characteristic of political science a half century ago is a main pillar of the discipline today. But the scope of attention has been enlarged since that time, and the descriptive accounts are now more elaborate. Today the Indiana University student may sign up for an intellectual tour, not only of the United States and the leading states of Western Europe, but also of Russia and its satellites, India and Pakistan, Japan and China, the principal Moslem countries, and the new states of Africa. Plans call for immediate addition of courses on Latin American government and politics. Of course, the international organizations (including UN) which have come to prominence since 1914 have also come to attention in the political science curriculum.

Not only does today's college student learn about government and politics in countries that were outside the range of political science fifty years ago; he also examines more thoroughly the systems which are brought to his notice. The course which he gets today, if well taught, penetrates more deeply into the processes by which public policy is made and executed, the way people are associated and the strategies they pursue in their efforts to control government, who appears to benefit most and who appears to be ignored when governmental programs are put into operation, and so on. Critics of later developments in political science sometimes argue that eagerness to explore the informal and personal aspects of government and politics resulted in too little attention to constitutional arrangements, institutional structure, and basic relationships among the fundamental parts of a political system.

Second, a turn towards science. The term “social science” was in common use at the beginning of this century, but the goals and methods of science were by no means prominent in the study of social relationships. The study of government and politics was no exception, although leaders in this branch of study, creating a national association in 1903, called their new organization The American Political Science Association. Indeed, the political scientists are generally thought to have lagged behind the anthropologists, economists, psychologists, and sociologists in subjecting the phenomena they study to the systematic and rigorous examination implied in the term "science." Whatever be the rightfulness of this charge, it is a fact that the period since World War II has witnessed a marked increase in effort to apply scientific standards to the study of government and politics. While the Indiana University Department of Government can make no claim to have led the nation in this trend, it may well be cited as an important center for this kind of study today.

The modern scientific enterprise is too complicated to be adequately characterized in a few sentences, if indeed it can be adequately characterized in an essay of any length. We may venture here to note two implications of science a way of studying and a goal of study. In any field of inquiry, the scientist adopts standards of proof and adheres to these standards rigorously in his effort to determine exactly what exists and occurs. The goal of his study is to arrive at inclusive or generalized statements about the phenomena he studies, having a high concern that these statements stand up under further study, that they provide explanation of important phenomena, and that they ultimately unite with other sectors of firm knowledge in an ever expanding understanding of the universe.


The postwar turn to science has had at least three observable consequences for the study of government and politics. In the first place, the literature which attempts to describe institutions and tell how things are done makes better use of evidence than formerly was the case. There is reluctance today to rely on secondhand accounts which would have been thought good enough fifty years ago. Comparatively, less time is spent in the library today; more time is spent observing government in action and drawing information out of people who know most about what is going on.

Closely related to this better appreciation of evidence is a second consequence of the turn to science ways are found now to identify, trace out, and put a measure on relationships among per­ sons that formerly were ignored by political scientists or, at best, disposed of with highly impressionistic observations. This point may be illustrated by reference to a file of data on politics in Indiana which is now in preparation. Significant biographical facts about men who stand for public office in Indiana, the competition they encounter and the vote they receive in primary and general elections, their tendency to seek reelection and reasons for giving up public life when they fail to stand again; significant facts about the law-making process (who introduces legislation, what happens to bills in the legislative session, how members of the legislature line up in roll calls on legislative measures)-these categories of information are only a part of an extensive file of information on politics in Indiana which now fills several thousand IBM cards, and which will fill a good many thousand more a few years from now. Modern mechanical and electronic equipment, and the availability of financial support by the great foundations, will make it possible for the academic political scientists to describe the forest that the practical politician is unable wholly to comprehend because of the trees that confound his vision.

Inquiry of the style just mentioned necessarily must be guided by imagination. And imagination, addressed to problems of study, produces theory. This is a third significant consequence of the intrusion of scientific method into the study of government and politics. The political scientists have learned a great deal from the sociologists since World War II about how to construct theory to guide particular expeditions in search of factual knowledge. There is evidence that they may look to the experience of the economists for guidance in developing general theories about those relationships among men which in their first manifestations are called influence and in their highest development are called coercive power.

This brief history of political science at Indiana University must come to a dose with bare mention of a third major development of the past half century. The academic study of government and politics has become increasingly involved in the ongoing administration of public affairs. Some of the principal evidences of this common enterprise were mentioned above—the establishment of a Bureau of Government Research, the development of training for careers in government, the provision of services in foreign countries which further the objectives of American foreign policy. These institutional arrangements are supplemented by personal services supplied by faculty members, sometimes on leave from their teaching positions but more often on a part time consulting basis, and in many instances without special compensation. A list of in stances in which faculty members have been called on for advice or assistance has never been compiled. Such a list, if available, undoubtedly would show that contacts with government in operation have increased over the years, both in frequency and in the importance of services rendered. But the record would only show an increase in tempo and magnitude, not the institution of something new in the role of the political scientist. For precedent was established when the independent status of the discipline was recognized. Professor Bates had midwifed the birth of a League of Municipalities in Kansas before he carne to Indiana University, and Professor Hershey left the campus for service in the State Department and the mission which negotiated the treaty of Versailles immediately after the new Department of Political Science came into existence.

A personal witness to much
of the development discussed in the
preceding article, Professor Hyneman signed up
for his first course in Political Science at Indiana University
in the Fall of 1920, majored in that Department for
both the A.B. and the A.M. degrees. He received the PhD.
degree at the University of Illinois in 1929.
After teaching at Illinois, Syracuse, Louisiana State, and
Northwestern and holding administrative positions in
Washington d uring five years of World War 11, he
became Professor of Government at I.U. in 1956. He was President of
the American Political Science Association in 1961-62 and now
represents the nation's political scientists on the
National Research Council. Among his writings
are the books,
The Study of Politics (1959)
The Supreme Court on Trial (1963).