While you may only vote every few years, politics affects your life every day. For this reason, it can be argued that we should all improve our understanding and appreciation for it.
Likewise, you might want to also consider integrating some philosophy while you are at it!
You can even benefit professionally by studying a little political science! Who knows, you might also find your calling and run for office to affect public policy?
What do you need to study political science?
There are usually no requirements to have any prior experience in political science to study it. All you really need is a spark of interest and a lot of patience.
But what is it? Political science is "a social science concerned chiefly with the description and analysis of political and especially governmental institutions and processes," according to Merriam Webster.
Political science courses offer a wide range of courses with different specializations. While at its core, it is the study of politics, political science goes much further.
It looks into various forms of government from the many countries of the world, past, and present. Political science tends to cover things like (credit to enotes.com):
- The factors that cause people to vote a certain way in elections,
- Public confidence in the governing structures, and;
- Divisions within electorates that help to understand the perceptions of different ethnic groups or socioeconomic classes toward various issues and politicians.
To name but a few.
By studying political sciences, you will get a broader "birds-eye" view of politics and the wide-ranging impact it has on societies.
Seven reasons you should study politics and political sciences
You may or may not care about politics, but there are some reasons you should at least have an appreciation for it. After all, as the famous saying goes, "you might not care about politics, but it certainly cares about you!"
1. Politics impacts every aspect of your life
Like it or not, government and politics have a major impact on your life — both as a private citizen and as a professional.
Politics affects how much of your hard-earned money you keep through taxes to the sorts of things you can buy. Since it is so all-pervasive, you really should take the time to understand the process and arguments put forward by prospective leaders and parties.
Who are the people who are making these laws I'm supposed to follow? How would their campaign promises affect me if they got into power?
By educating yourself about some aspects of politics, it will enable you to make more informed decisions when you vote. This is a very important decision and will affect you, your family, and friends in the future on a wide range of issues.
This is inextricably linked to a good foundation in philosophy, as well. By discovering what is important to you (like smaller government, fewer taxes, less government interference, etc.), you will learn to vote with your head and not your heart.
2. As a voter, you are obliged to be informed
Your right to vote has been hard-won in blood and struggle. For this reason, it is your duty as a citizen to have your voice heard at the ballot box.
Regrettably but understandably, according to a 2015 PBS news article found that the 2016 presidential election accounted for only 58% of eligible voters despite being a record voter turnout in recent years.
But just turning up to vote is not enough. You should take the time to arm yourself with the facts. Listen to the arguments, read the manifestos of parties, and make a level-headed choice.
After all, "every nation gets the government it deserves." Don't like what they are doing? Punish them at the next election.
Of course, it is not possible to read every single news article or television interview from a candidate. But by doing some independent research, you can quickly find out who is telling the truth and who is relying solely on rhetoric (which is all too common).
It is also worthwhile getting a balanced diet for your political news. Most media sources are biased in one direction, so be sure to get the other side of the argument too.
You will then be better placed to balance the arguments for yourself.
3. Grab the popcorn; politics can be great fun to watch and learn about
We are certainly going through some turbulent times in global politics. Establishment shaking events like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to the Yellow Vest movement in France has turned something rather bland into a nail-biting rollercoaster ride.
Of course, it might not be as exciting as a night out with your best buddies, but the battle of wits and powerplays in politics can certainly be very gripping indeed.
Being a spectator can be both exciting and infuriating in equal measures. Political debates can be incredibly interesting, especially if you have some knowledge of the subject at hand and have a grasp of logical fallacies.
Once you have an understanding of terms like ad hominem, strawman arguments, and non-sequitur, you will quickly discover which prospective candidate or campaign is "least dishonest."
4. Politics lets you know your rights
Politicians are the servants of the people, not the other way around. This is, sadly, all too easily forgotten by those who lust for power.
By having a grasp of the subject at hand, and being safe in the knowledge that by voting you have a say in the running of things, you will feel more invested in society and the country at large.
If you don't like the way things are being run, rally your friends and family to change things at election time.
It is very easy to fall into the trap that "all politicians" are the same, and for "career politicians," there is certainly a good argument for that. Try to resist this urge and find candidates who best align with your core values.
You might also want to consider taking a political compass test.
5. You will gain some useful skills too
Political science courses usually encompass many different approaches to the topic. They tend to train you in many critical skills that are readily-transferable to your career.
You will develop your writing skills, quantitative reasoning, and develop a way to assess statistical arguments.
Political theory courses also tend to train you in analytical thinking, which is an essential skill for almost all attractive careers.
6. It will help you, professionally and financially
Knowledge of political science can be extremely valuable to individuals.
"Business executives, for example, need to have some understanding of the likely trajectory of policy and politics in China or Europe as well as in the United States in order to make wise investment decisions." - Boston University.
Many political science alumni have found success in many different professions and organizations. Many CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, for example, have political science majors.
7. It will hone your debating skills
Politics and political science are all about reasoned argument and debate (at least that's the theory - see point 3 above). By studying political sciences, you will be required to examine, discuss, and debate many issues.
This process will hone your ability to form an argument and demand you to defend your position. It will also force you to analyze your own personally held beliefs and presuppositions. You might be wrong!
For this reason, political sciences will better equip you in your professional life to defend your point of view on various aspects of your working life.