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3 - Behaviouralism

from I - Contemporary Theories of Australian Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Rodney Smith
Affiliation:
University of Sydney
Ariadne Vromen
Affiliation:
University of Sydney
Ian Cook
Affiliation:
Murdoch University, Western Australia
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Summary

Behaviouralism is related to the republican strand of democratic thought outlined in Chapter 1, in that behaviouralists commonly argue that the success or failure of democracies such as Australia must be explained by the ways in which citizens think and act politically, rather than by the mere presence of ‘democratic’ institutions such as parliaments. In fact, behaviouralists tend to see political institutions as grounded in the repeated behaviour of a group of individuals. While the institutionalists discussed in Chapter 2 focus on the influence of political institutions in shaping behaviour, behaviouralists focus on the influence of people’s behaviour in shaping institutions. In doing this, behaviouralists have broadened the focus of political scientists from formal institutions of government to a wider political system that includes informal actors such as interest groups and voters. The critical theorists discussed in Chapter 4 attack behaviouralists for overlooking deep conflicts in the political system, while the discourse theorists introduced in Chapter 5 reject the idea that observing behaviour can uncover scientific laws about politics.

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Contemporary Politics in Australia
Theories, Practices and Issues
, pp. 25 - 35
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

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