Usable Social Science

Usable Social Science

Usable Social Science

Usable Social Science

Synopsis

This volume is a one-of-a-kind contribution to applied social science and the product of a long collaboration between an established, interdisciplinary sociologist and a successful banking executive. Together, Neil Smelser and John Reed use a straightforward approach to presenting substantive social science knowledge and indicate its relevance and applicability to decision-making, problem-solving and policy-making. Among the areas presented are space-and-time coordinates of social life; cognition and bias; group and network effects; the role of sanctions; organizational dynamics; and macro-changes associated with economic development. Finally, the authors look at the big picture of why society at large demands and needs social-science knowledge, and how the academy actually supplies relevant knowledge.

Excerpt

Bankers and sociologists seldom work together. Nor do they overlap very much in their social circles. Most of them do not seem to mind this void; some probably like it that way. As coauthors of this book, we are an exception to this principle of noncontact. In this preface, we explain both this anomaly and the circumstances of our collaboration.

Reed had been in banking not only for his entire career before retirement, but also with the same organization. After earning a BS in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1961, he joined Citibank as a trainee. Over the years, he moved upward in responsibility, and was appointed chairman in 1984, a position that he held until his retirement in 2000. Unlike most with such a career, however, he developed an interest in, appreciation of, and commitment to the social sciences in general. He has always read extensively in relevant subjects, and over the years he has sat on the boards of trustees of many social-science organizations: the Russell Sage Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Spencer Foundation, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and MDRC. Through these organizations, and by residing in New York, Princeton, and the Boston area, he has accumulated many social-science academics as friends.

Smelser has been an academic sociologist his whole career, and almost all of it with the same organization, too—the University of California, Berkeley—serving on its faculty from 1958 to 1994 and as professor emeritus since 2001. Yet the tower in which he has lived is not made entirely of ivory. Over the years, he served in many administrative and advisory positions at UC and was active organizationally and politically in its Academic Senate. Outside the university, he maintained . . .

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