Beyond Ethnocentrism: A Reconstruction of Marx's Concept of Science

Beyond Ethnocentrism: A Reconstruction of Marx's Concept of Science

Beyond Ethnocentrism: A Reconstruction of Marx's Concept of Science

Beyond Ethnocentrism: A Reconstruction of Marx's Concept of Science

Synopsis

In this time of great change in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, Karl Marx's relevance to modern social science may seem remote. However, this important study by Charles McKelvey shows just the opposite: Marx's concept of science can help social scientists gain a greater understanding of today's world society. Western ethnocentrism has, McKelvey argues, isolated the Euro-American sociologist from a true picture of the Third World. Modern sociology must rethink itself, McKelvey maintains, in light of Marxian concepts, Immanuel Wallerstein's "world systems perspective," and the cognitional theory of philosopher Bernard Lonergan.

Excerpt

This book is the result of nearly twenty years of study and reflection. in many respects, this quest began when I was an undergraduate student at the Pennsylvania State University in the late 1960s. in the context of the turmoil of that time, I found my socially grounded assumptions challenged by the struggles of people of color in such diverse places as Alabama, Watts, and Vietnam. This experience led me, in the early 1970s, to the Center for Inner City Studies in Chicago, where I was privileged to learn an analysis of modern history and society from an African-American and African nationalist point of view. As a result of my study at the Center for Inner City Studies, I became aware of the fact that black scholars and white social scientists often have fundamentally different assumptions about history and society. This brought me to the question, Is there any objective understanding of society, or do understandings of society necessarily reflect social position? Is there an objective social science, or is there simply a black social science and a white social science, the legitimacy of which is ultimately not a matter of truth but of power? When I completed my studies, I believed the latter option to be the case. My interest in such questions took me to Fordham University, where I had an opportunity to study both sociological theory and philosophy, including the cognitional theory of the Catholic philosopher Bernard Lonergan as well as the understandings of objectivity of mainstream sociological thinkers. Lonergan's penetrating analysis of the process of knowing in all its forms convinced me of the possibility of obtaining an understanding independent of social position through encounter with persons of diverse social positions. I concluded that the problem with the social science of our time was that it had not taken seriously the writings of the intellectuals and theoreticians of the African nationalist and African-American nationalist movement.

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