Is Political Science A Humanities Subject?

Political science is a fascinating field that examines how power is distributed and exercised in society. But is it considered a humanities subject? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll analyze political science’s classification and relationship to the humanities.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: political science occupies a middle ground between the humanities and social sciences. While it shares many qualities with humanities disciplines, most classify it as one of the social sciences.

Defining the Humanities

When it comes to categorizing academic disciplines, there is often a debate about which subjects fall under the humanities umbrella. Humanities can broadly be defined as the study of human culture, including language, literature, philosophy, history, and the arts.

It is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand the human experience and the development of societies throughout history.

The Liberal Arts

The humanities are often associated with the liberal arts, which encompass a wide range of subjects that encourage critical thinking, creativity, and a well-rounded education. The liberal arts focus on developing skills such as communication, problem-solving, and analytical thinking, which are essential in various career paths.

Key Features

There are several key features that are commonly associated with the humanities. These include:

  • Interpretation: Humanities subjects often involve the interpretation of texts, artworks, and historical events to gain a deeper understanding of their meaning and significance.
  • Critical Analysis: The humanities emphasize the ability to critically analyze and evaluate different perspectives, arguments, and ideas.
  • Subjectivity: Unlike some other disciplines, the humanities recognize and embrace the subjective nature of human experiences and interpretations.
  • Human-centered Approach: Humanities subjects focus on the study of human culture, society, and the individual, exploring the complexities of human behavior and the factors that shape our world.

Subjects Traditionally Considered Humanities

There are several subjects that have traditionally been considered part of the humanities. These include:

  • History: The study of past events, societies, and individuals, analyzing their impact on the present.
  • Literature: The examination of written works, including novels, poetry, and plays, to explore themes, styles, and cultural significance.
  • Philosophy: The study of fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, ethics, and the nature of reality.
  • Art: The exploration of visual and performing arts, including painting, sculpture, music, dance, and theater.
  • Linguistics: The analysis of language structure, history, and its role in communication and human interaction.

While political science is not traditionally considered a humanities subject, it shares some common elements with the humanities, such as the study of societies, political ideologies, and the impact of politics on human behavior.

However, political science is more commonly classified as a social science due to its emphasis on empirical research and quantitative analysis.

For more information about the humanities, you can visit National Endowment for the Humanities or National Endowment for the Arts.

Classifying Political Science

Political science is a field of study that often straddles the line between the humanities and the social sciences. While some argue that it falls squarely within the social sciences, others contend that it shares more similarities with humanities disciplines such as history, philosophy, and literature.

To understand the classification of political science, it is important to consider its origin and evolution, research methodologies, subject matter and skills, as well as how it compares to other fields.

Origin and Evolution

Political science has its roots in ancient Greece, where philosophers like Plato and Aristotle explored questions of governance and political organization. Over the centuries, this field of study has evolved to encompass a wide range of topics, including political theory, comparative politics, international relations, and public policy.

This historical background suggests a connection to the humanities, as it involves the study of human behavior, values, and ideas.

Research Methodologies

Political scientists employ a variety of research methodologies to study political phenomena. These can include quantitative analysis, qualitative research, case studies, surveys, and experiments. This interdisciplinary approach draws on methodologies from both the social sciences and the humanities, highlighting the diverse nature of political science as a field of study.

Subject Matter and Skills

The subject matter of political science encompasses a wide range of topics, including the study of political institutions, political ideologies, public opinion, elections, and international relations.

These subjects require a combination of analytical and critical thinking skills, as well as strong writing and communication abilities. The emphasis on understanding human behavior and societal dynamics further reflects the interdisciplinary nature of political science.

Comparison to Other Fields

When comparing political science to other fields, it is important to note its similarities and differences. While political science shares similarities with social sciences such as sociology and economics, it also shares commonalities with humanities disciplines such as history and philosophy.

For example, political science often draws on historical analysis to understand political events and movements, while also employing philosophical frameworks to examine political theories and ideologies.

Political Science’s Relationship to the Humanities

Political science is a multidisciplinary field that encompasses elements of both the social sciences and the humanities. While it is often categorized as a social science, there are strong arguments to be made for its connection to the humanities as well.

Overlap in Skills

One of the reasons for considering political science as a humanities subject is the overlap in skills between the two disciplines. Both political science and the humanities require critical thinking, analytical skills, and the ability to interpret and communicate complex ideas.

Political scientists, like humanities scholars, analyze texts, engage in close reading, and grapple with abstract concepts. These shared skills suggest a strong connection between the two fields.

Differences in Research Methods

However, there are also differences in research methods between political science and the humanities. Political science tends to rely more heavily on quantitative research methods, such as statistical analysis, while the humanities often employ qualitative research methods, such as textual analysis and interpretation.

This distinction in research methods has led some to argue that political science is more closely aligned with the social sciences rather than the humanities.

Debate Over Classification

There is an ongoing debate among scholars about the classification of political science as a humanities subject. Some argue that political science should be considered a social science because of its emphasis on empirical research and the scientific method.

Others contend that political science should be included in the humanities due to its focus on political theory, philosophy, and the study of human behavior in a political context.

Despite this debate, it is important to recognize that the boundaries between academic disciplines are often fluid and subject to interpretation. The categorization of political science as a humanities or social science subject may depend on the specific context and perspective of the individual or institution making the classification.

Practical Implications

While the classification of political science as a humanities or social science subject may be a matter of academic debate, it has practical implications as well. In some universities, political science departments are housed within social sciences divisions, while in others they are part of humanities or interdisciplinary programs.

This organizational structure can influence the way political science is taught and researched, as well as the funding and resources available to the discipline.

The Interdisciplinary Nature of Political Science

Political science is a unique discipline that encompasses elements from various fields, making it an interdisciplinary subject. By exploring connections to history, gaining insights from philosophy, conducting linguistic analysis, and considering geographic factors, political scientists are able to provide a comprehensive understanding of the political landscape.

Connections to History

One of the key aspects of political science is its close connection to history. By studying past political events and their impact on society, political scientists are able to draw valuable lessons and gain a deeper understanding of the present.

For example, analyzing historical documents and studying the rise and fall of political movements can help in predicting future trends and making informed policy decisions. Websites like provide a wealth of information that can be utilized in political science research.

Insights From Philosophy

Philosophy plays a significant role in shaping political science. By examining various ethical and moral theories, political scientists can critically evaluate political systems and policies. For instance, the works of political philosophers like John Locke and Thomas Hobbes have influenced the development of political ideologies and the understanding of concepts such as democracy and power.

Incorporating philosophical perspectives allows political scientists to analyze the underlying values and principles that guide political behavior.

Linguistic Analysis

Political scientists also employ linguistic analysis to better understand political communication and discourse. By examining speeches, political rhetoric, and media narratives, they can uncover underlying meanings, identify persuasive techniques, and analyze the impact of language on public opinion.

Linguistic analysis provides valuable insights into how language shapes political narratives and influences political behavior. This interdisciplinary approach draws on techniques from linguistics, communication studies, and political science to provide a comprehensive understanding of the role of language in politics.

Geographic Considerations

In addition to historical and philosophical perspectives, political science also takes into account geographic factors. Understanding the geographical context of political events and studying the influence of geography on political systems and conflicts is crucial.

For example, analyzing the distribution of resources, population density, and physical boundaries can help in understanding the dynamics of international relations and domestic politics. By considering geographic factors, political scientists can provide a more nuanced understanding of the complexities of political systems.


While classifications vary, political science incorporates elements of both the humanities and social sciences. Its broad research methodologies, real-world subject matter, and interdisciplinary nature situate it somewhere between the two fields.

But political science’s core skills in critical analysis, interpreting texts, and conceptual thinking closely align it with the humanities.

The debate over political science’s categorization shows the difficulty of neatly separating academic disciplines. Political science demonstrates how fields can build on one another to create knowledge, resist simple classification, and enrich our understanding of complex social issues.

Similar Posts