Wednesday, December 16, 2009
POLITICAL SCIENCE RESEARCH AS A TOOL FOR DOMINATION IN AFRICA.
There is a widely accepted view that the exploitation and domination of man by man characterize all spheres of social relations cum human existence. The aim of this paper is to investigate political science research as a tool for domination in Africa.
This paper is very ambitious. It will raise more questions than it could answer. The reason has been that, the subject matter demands the exploration and investigation of critical questions. This includes: What is politics? What is political science? What is Research? What is Domination? What is Knowledge Production? What is the nature of knowledge production in Africa? Is Africa a research oriented continent? How can knowledge production be deployed for domination? etc. The paper is organized into four parts: conceptual clarification, knowledge production in Africa, Political science research as a took for domination in Africa, and lastly, the conclusion.
According to Aristotle, “man is by nature a political animal”. By this, he means that the essence of social existence is politics and that two or more men interacting with one another are invariably involved in a political relationship. Men are engaged in politics as they try to define their positions in society, as they struggle for scarce resources and as they try to convince others to accept their points of view (cited in Anifowose, 2008). Politics is Who Gets What, When and How (Lasswell, 1930). Politics is also, defined as organized dispute about power and its use, involving choice among competing values, ideas, persons, interests and demands (Curtis, 2001). Put differently, politics refers to the activities associated with the control of public decision among a given people and on a given territory, where this control may be backed up by authoritative and coercive means (Almond et al 2001:4). It is the art of influencing, manipulating and controlling others (Wright cited in Anifowose, 2008). To David Easton(1960) Politics connotes the authoritative allocation of values. Politics in essence is the struggle for domination and maximization of interest in society.
In its broadest sense, political science as a social science discipline could be defined as the systematic study of politics. It is the application of scientific methodology, to understand the social relations that has bearing on the political behaviour, and fundamental social principles or laws that guide the political process (Anifowose and Enemuo, 1999:5). Political science comprises a vast range of subject matters that are of interest to the political scientist. These include: Comparative Politics, Public Administration, International Relations, Political Theory, Political Sociology and Inter governmental Relations.
The word research is derived from the French word “reacherche”, which means to search closely. Research connotes the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions. Research can also be defined as an endeavor to study or obtain knowledge, through the use of systematic approach with the intent of clarification. It is a curiosity – driven activity that, has the purpose of discover, and advancement of knowledge. Research is a form of inquiry that involves seeking of evidence to increase knowledge (Fawole, et al,. 2006:2). From the above conceptualizations, research is systematic, it is designed to obtain knowledge and the results of a research are verifiable. For instance, Basic Research produces new scientific knowledge, hypothesis and theories which are expressed in research papers and memoranda, while inventive work drawing on this basic research produces patentable inventions (Kuper and Kuper, 1999:737).
It is imperative to note that, all researches have ontological and epistemological positions whether acknowledged or not. In other words, research has a range of underpinnings, as well as methodological techniques cum practices. It has to be theoretically engaged, hence research is under girded by theory, research is not value free and research is about rigour (Fawole, et al 2006:3). Epistemology basically refers to part of philosophy that deals with knowledge. An epistemological issue concerns the question of what is (or should be) regarded as acceptable knowledge in a discipline. Epistemological positions include: Positivism, Realism and Interpretivism. Ontological issues on the other hand has to do with whether the social world is regarded as something external to social actors, or as something that people are in the process of fashioning. Ontological positions include: Objectivism, Constructionism or Constructivism (Bryman, 2006).
Research is classified in different ways. The criteria for classifying typologies of research embraces, methodology, Approach, function/purpose and Discipline-Based etc. Generally, research helps to push the frontiers of knowledge beyond the horizon. It is an in depth analysis based on reflective thinking of the various phenomena or observed units to make a generalization. Research is the search to establish facts. It is the hunt for the truth. The process of research is an helical cycle.
Political Science Research
Political science is a social science concerned with the study of theory and practice of politics and description and analysis of political systems and political behaviors. One can not talk of political science research without situating it in the wider context of social science research. Social science research studies man and his institutions. It is largely empirical and bound to be inter disciplinary as the social phenomena are not isolated. Social science research is the systematic method of discovering new facts, verifying old facts, their sequences, interrelationships, causal explanation, and natural law that governs them., In other words, it is the scientific undertaking in the field of social sciences to acquire facts. Social research is the manipulation of things, concepts and symbols; with a view to extend new knowledge or verify the old knowledge whether that knowledge aids in the construction of a theory or the practice of an art (Cauvery, et al 2000). Social science research involves the use of scientific methodology. It implies the development of new scientific tools, concepts and theories which would facilitate viable and valid study of human behavior.
Be that as it may, it is important to note that the emergence of political behaviouralism as an approach to political science marked a sharp departure from the traditional orientation of political enquiry, which was mainly in the form of normative and descriptive studies. The behavioural paradigm heralded the emergence of empirical analysis; in other words, the scientific mode of analysis. That is, it changed the methodological and technical face of political investigation (political science research) (Paki and Inokoba, 2006). The scientific procedure of methodology adopted by political science from the natural sciences in its study and analysis of political phenomena involves: observations, formulation of Hypothesis, verification, experimentation and theory formulation. However, in the social sciences, human beings are the sources of data, therefore the attitude, environment, honesty, personal values and bias of the researcher and respondents have the tendency to affect the research findings cum decisions.
KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION IN AFRICA
The Climax of every research is knowledge production or the verification of existing knowledge. Any scientific research in the social (or natural sciences) involves a search into a problem or problem area, with the ultimate intent of contributing to the corpus of scientific knowledge, which them becomes available to the world (Mukherji, 2000). It is indeed factual to assert that, knowledge is produced through the rigorous process of research.
Knowledge production, communication and dissemination is becoming central to the mission for all universities in the 21st century, thus enabling a shift beyond teaching towards research and civic engagement. However, a growing gap in knowledge production exists not only between high-income and other countries, but also within the developing world. Stagnating research means some nations have lost their relative share of global knowledge production (University World News, 2009). The lack of “research on research” in most developing countries promoted the UNESCO forum to commission a study on the research systems of 52 developing countries, to investigate the growing gap in knowledge production between developed and less developed nations, to uncover the roots of and reasons for the inequalities, and to help strengthen research and research capacity in developing nations.
Knowledge production in Africa is conditioned by various structural and epistemic imperatives. The contexts and constrains that shape knowledge production are subject to changes emanating as much from the academy itself as from the wider society. Knowledge production is undergoing massive transformations tied to shifting internal and external mandates and missions. Knowledge production systems involve the intricate interplay of institutional, intellectual, ideological and individual factors. Academic institutions which represents the hallmark of knowledge production can be classified according to their physical location (Rural, urban or metropolitan), fiscal base (private, public or for profit), academic structure (Doctorate Granting, Associates or Specialized). More so, the intellectual enterprise itself can be distinguished in terms of theoretical orientation (positivist, post structuralist, feminist etc) and methodological consideration (empirical experimental, ethnographic, tactual etc) as the case may be (Zeleza, 2003).
POLITICAL SCIENCE RESEARCH AS A TOOL FOR DOMINATION IN AFRICA
The above subject matter can be viewed from different perspectives. This includes: what is the nature of knowledge production in political science? What are the accepted tools of political science research? How can knowledge production in political science be an instrument for domination? etc.
Experience has shown and there is no denying the fact that, the perspective from which research is initiated affects the knowledge been produced. The argument is that, science is neutral and subjective. And that borrowed paradigms aid the institutionalization of domination. The interpretation of reality is coloured from the perspective one is viewing the problem from. Science is basically the service of power. Hence, stand point epistemologies focus on how research and knowledge production can be done from different perspectives. According to Hardling (1994) “modern sciences have used regional resources to constitute their goals, problematic, hypothesis, concepts, models and metaphors, research designs and technologies, favoured languages, selection and interpretation of data, the institutional structures necessary to do such sciences, their dissemination patterns, meanings and other consequencies. Their cognitive technical cores, not just their consequencies, are locally constituted.” The above argument captures reality in political science. The reason has been that, the tools for political science research is western biased and conceived as the ideal. Political science research can be deployed for domination if the knowledge been produced is used to influence, manipulate or control a given population. And this explains the African experience.
First and foremost, Africa is not a research oriented but knowledge dependent continent. The reason has been that the budget for research and development in Africa is very low. Research is a rigorous process that involves finance and availability of research instruments. Paradoxically, most research institutions in Africa, are grossly under funded and lack the capacity to engage in quality research. More so, the cost of publishing is very high and as such militates against knowledge production. In Nigeria for instance, the persistent calls to increase the national budget for education to 40% is yet to be realized. Therefore, university lecturers are confined predominantly to mere teachers and not researchers.
Secondly, African leaders are not sensitive to knowledge production by African scholars. The publications and research findings of African scholars in most cases are treated with disdain, which hinders scholarship promotion in the continent. Africa depends majorly on knowledge been produced in the developed world which act as the source of domination. Political science research is a tool for domination simply because the dominant theories cum knowledge produced via political science research are western biased. Political science is replete with studies, theories and idea that are prejudiced and biased against Africa. Explanations and prescriptions to the problem of African underdevelopment are often Eurocentric. Western development theories attempts to explain the continent’s underdevelopment by emphasizing endogenous variables so much that little or no reference is made to the all important role played by exogenous forces (imperialism). Furthermore, many western scholars argue that the only way Africa can get out of the shacklers of underdevelopment is to adopt western values, ideas and policies (Ibaba, 2004). The argument is that the emphasis of westernization of Africa as a panacea for development is a tool for domination. That is subjugating African to European culture, customs and belief system.
According to Ake (1979 and 1981) “western social sciences (political science inclusive) is focused on stability and order. And that this is institutionalized through the discouragement of dialectical thinking. The discouragement of dialectical thinking is related to the ideological commitment of western social science to the justification and preservation of the existing social order. With this kind of commitment, mainstream western social science has an inbuilt bias in favour of categories such as mechanical and organic solidarity, traditional and bureaucratic authority, universalism and particularism, democratic and totalitarian political systems, which are discrete and in sharp contrast and suggestive of good and bad. The categories connoting good are associated with the prevailing western society”. The logic is that, everything Western is good, and anything African is bad.
Political science research in Africa by western scholars paints Africa as backward, primitive, uncivilized and stateless prior to the advent of colonialism, which is not the case. In essence, knowledge production in political science from the western world stands to be a mechanism for domination and exploitation.
Another crucial point to note is that, most African scholars are disadvantaged in times of publishing in reputable international political science journals. The reason been that, the inadequacies in our national educational systems, has not prepared them effectively for this task, coupled with the bias measures against African scholars. As Widner (2000) has emphasized, issues that concern Africanists do not attract universal attention, and book publishers are reluctant to print even first rate research by Africans for global audience, for fear of commercial failure. A gatekeeper mentality” among the editors of professional Journals create a similar skepticism towards Africanists articles because they do not necessarily comply with what these gatekeepers narrowly consider to be dominant canons in the discipline. The implication therefore is that, knowledge production from the West dominates public consumption in political science research, and that is inimical to Africa.
Again, a related issue is the implication of lack of research funding in Africa and the attendant sourcing of research funds from abroad. Much social research is funded by organizations such as firms (Ford, Mac Arthur and Rockefeller Foundation) and Government Departments in the Developed world. The undeniable fact is that, such organizations frequently have a vested interest in the outcome of the research. This explains the selective funding of research which rests on interest maximization and protection. That is, the funding agencies seek to invest in studies that benefit them, and which will be supportive of their operations and worldview. A good example is scholarship grants for Doctorate research in specified areas offered to African students and scholars. The logic is that such research concern and questions are, tailored to suit the interest of the funding agencies. More so, the research findings are manipulated to protect their interest. Experience has shown that the West also exert pressure to restrict the publication of independent research findings that are critical of the dominant knowledge in circulation.
Again, where as African leaders are pressurized by the West to delink the State from the provision of basic social services by implementing privatization, deregulation and structural adjustment programmes, the state in the west is playing greater roles to benefit the citizenry. The recent bail out programme for bank in the west due to the global economic meltdown is a case in point. The instigation of African leaders to band the teaching of Marxism and Marxist literatures simple because it explains the dialectics of exploitation of man by man and how consciousness can lead to change is another notable example.
I will conclude by refuting a widely held political geography knowledge that “Mungo Park discovered River Niger”. The above statement is a mechanism for domination. Writing the political history of Africa from the western perspective is detrimental to Africa. The fact remains that, Africans have been using the River Niger for water and aquatic resources for millennia before the coming of the white man. Mungo park may be the first Whiteman to visit the Niger River, but never at all discover the River Niger.
Knowledge is power and political science is the master science. If you understand it, you survive the world. The best and easiest way to dominate or control a man is to indoctrinate him. Unfortunate for Africa, that has been the trend as regards political science research and knowledge production. Until Africa rise up to challenge and free it self from this dominance, the western world is ever ready to perpetuate the status quo. This does not mean that the deployment of political science research by Africans for the domination of Africans is not possible.
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