A Humanist Science: Values and Ideals in Social Inquiry

A Humanist Science: Values and Ideals in Social Inquiry

A Humanist Science: Values and Ideals in Social Inquiry

A Humanist Science: Values and Ideals in Social Inquiry

Synopsis

Providing a capstone to Philip Selznick's influential body of scholarly work, A Humanist Science insightfully brings to light the value-centered nature of the social sciences. The work clearly challenges the supposed separation of fact and value, and argues that human values belong to the world of fact and are the source of the ideals that govern social and political institutions. By demonstrating the close connection between the social sciences and the humanities, Selznick reveals how the methods of the social sciences highlight and enrich the study of such values as well-being, prosperity, rationality, and self-government.

The book moves from the animating principles that make up the humanist tradition to the values that are central to the social sciences, analyzing the core teachings of these disciplines with respect to the moral issues at stake. Throughout the work, Selznick calls attention to the conditions that affect the emergence, realization, and decline of human values, offering a valuable resource for scholars and students of law, sociology, political science, and philosophy.

Excerpt

PHILIP SELZNICK'S life's work is distinctive in character and distinguished in quality. That is equally true of this new book, A Humanist Science, both in its own right and for the underlying themes and implications of that larger body of work and thought, which it discloses, distills, and extends.

Selznick has been an eminent and influential thinker in a wide range of social scientific disciplines, among them organization theory, general sociology, sociology of law, and social philosophy. He has written on many subjects, and his ideas have undergone cumulative refinement and development. Nevertheless, his thought has a deep and sustained coherence. It is, however, a complex coherence, not that of someone with just one thing to say.

One aspect of this coherence lies in Selznick's evolving views of the proper character of social inquiry and of its proper focus. A Humanist Science is above all, and almost literally, a distillation of these views. The word “distillation” is important here. I doubt that many people reading his early work would have realized the extent to which many of the themes central to this one were already animating the particular discussions there. I'm not even sure that Selznick always knew it. Sometimes, however, reading a writer's works backward is revealing. Doing so today, one is struck by the remarkable extent to which Selznick's oeuvre continually plays on and develops a coherent range of deep themes.

The first stage of Selznick's intellectual development began shortly before the Second World War, with an intense period of political . . .

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