As a social science, contemporary political science started to take shape in the latter half of the 19th century. At that time it began to separate itself from political philosophy, which traces its roots back to the works of Chanakya , Aristotle and Plato which were written nearly 2,500 years ago. The term "political science" was not always distinguished from political philosophy, and the modern discipline has a clear set of antecedents including also moral philosophy, political economy, political theology, history, and other fields concerned with normative determinations of what ought to be and with deducing the characteristics and functions of the ideal state.
Political science is the study of the organisation and functioning of political institutions, the agencies and processes operating between state and society, the complexion of governance as a function of state policy, and international relations. To this extent, Political Science is the designation for scholarly analysis of the “striving for a share of power or for influence on the distribution of power” (Max Weber) and the binding settlement of societal conflicts over desired values and goods in domestic policy, foreign policy, and international relations.
The Department of Political Science at Johannes Gutenberg University looks back on a history of five decades of politics as an academic discipline in Mainz. In the early 1960s, long before the social sciences became a recognized academic division of their own in German universities, two chairs for the "Science of Politics" were already established in Mainz - one in the Faculty of Philosophy, the other in the Faculty of Law. A decade later, these chairs were integrated into what became the Department of Political Science. Today, the Department is a vigorous entity, home of app. 40 faculty members, all of whom are dedicated both to teaching and to research.