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Academic discipline concerned with the empirical study of government and politics. Political scientists have investigated the nature of states, the functions performed by governments, voter behaviour, political parties, political culture, political economy, and public opinion, among other topics. Though it has roots in the political philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, political science in the modern sense did not begin until the 19th century, when many of the social sciences were established. Its empirical and generally scientific orientation is traceable to the work of Henri de Saint-Simon and Auguste Comte. The first institution dedicated to its study, the Free School of Political Science, was founded in Paris in 1871.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on political science, visit Britannica.com.