Theorizing in Social Science: The Context of Discovery

Theorizing in Social Science: The Context of Discovery

Theorizing in Social Science: The Context of Discovery

Theorizing in Social Science: The Context of Discovery

Synopsis

All social scientists learn the celebrated theories and frameworks of their predecessors, using them to inform their own research and observations. But before there can be theory, there must be theorizing. Theorizing in Social Science introduces the reader to the next generation of theory construction and suggests useful ways for creating social theory.

What makes certain types of theories creative, and how does one go about theorizing in a creative way? The contributors to this landmark collection-top social scientists in the fields of sociology, economics, and management-draw on personal experiences and new findings to provide a range of answers to these questions. Some turn to cognitive psychology and neuroscience's impact on our understanding of human thought, others encourage greater dialogue between and across the arts and sciences, while still others focus on the processes by which observation leads to conceptualization. Taken together, however, the chapters collectively and actively encourage a shift in the place of theory in social science today. Appealing to students and scientists across disciplines, this collection will inspire innovative approaches to producing, teaching, and learning theory.

Excerpt

Richard Swedberg

The purpose of this book is to start a discussion of the need for more creative theorizing in social science. We need better and bolder theory; and the key to producing it lies in the way that theory is being produced and how it is being taught to the next generation of social scientists. It primarily lies in the process of theorizing. in order to end up with better theory, in brief, we need to shift our main concern from theory to theorizing.

There is some reason to believe that the time is now ripe for this sea change from theory to theorizing. One important reason for this has to do with the emergence a few decades ago of cognitive science, especially cognitive psychology. Cognitive scientists have by now made good inroads into the mysteries of human thought processes; and the findings point in a very different direction from the kind of logical reasoning that for a long time has stood at the center of traditional theory in the social sciences. There exist many ways of thinking other than formal reasoning: with images, analogies, metaphors, and what in everyday language is called intuition.

In an earlier book a co-editor and I wanted to draw attention to the role of social mechanisms (Hedström and Swedberg 1997). We felt that much social science had become too focused on the analysis of variables and did not pay enough attention to the concrete ways in which social actions are linked together, via social mechanisms. in this volume the focus has been shifted to . . .

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