Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again

Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again

Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again

Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again

Synopsis

Making Social Science Matter presents an exciting new approach to social science, including theoretical argument, methodological guidelines, and examples of practical application. Why has social science failed in attempts to emulate natural science and produce normal theory? Bent Flyvbjerg argues that the strength of social science is in its rich, reflexive analysis of values and power, essential to the social and economic development of any society. Richly informed, powerfully argued, and clearly written, this book provides essential reading for all those in the social and behavioral sciences.

Excerpt

Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth.

Aristotle

Physics envy and pre-Kantian shamans

When the May 1996 issue of the journal Social Text appeared, an issue devoted to the understanding of “Science Wars,” the editors became targets in these “wars” in ways they had not imagined. The issue included a bogus article by New York University mathematical physicist Alan Sokal, who feigned an earnest reXection on the political and philosophical implications of recent physics research for cultural studies. Sokal revealed the hoax himself, and it immediately became a hotly debated issue in academic and popular media around the world. The appearance ofthe article was not only taken as a sign of shoddy scholarship by the Social Text editors but as an expose´ of cultural studies and social science in general. For instance, Nobel prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg used the hoax to identify what he calls a fundamental “opposition” between natural and social scientists, especially regarding what Weinberg sees as dangerous anti-rationalism and relativism in social science and cultural studies. Those on the other side of the “wars” countered by criticizing Sokal and calling Weinberg and like-minded natural scientists “pre-Kantian shaman[s]” repeating the “mantras of particle physicists,” with their “reductionist view of science.”

The year before Sokal's hoax, the “wars” had raged over the scientific status of a high-profile US National Opinion Research Center study, which had been launched as a “definitive survey” of sexual practices in the United States. Here, too, doubts were raised not only about the status of scholarship of the study in question, but of sociology and social science as such. The study had received the doubtful honor of becoming the topic of an editorial in The Economist under the heading “74.6% of Sociology is Bunk.” In The New York Review of Books, Harvard biologist and statistician R. C. Lewontin criticized the researchers behind the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.