Science and Social Science: An Introduction

By Malcolm Williams | Go to book overview

5

Against science in social science

Anti-science in social science sometimes takes the more generalised rejectionist or social constructionist forms described in the previous chapter. That is, rejectionist motivations for being against science apply equally to social science with the most usual articulation to be found in postmodernist writings (see, for example, Rosenau 1992; Sarup 1993 for a discussion of this). Similarly ‘standpoint theorists’ or ‘strong programmers’ usually apply their prescriptions to both the natural and social sciences. Indeed the methodological justification for the latter lies in it being subject to the same form of analysis (see for example McCarl Neilsen 1990) as it applies to the natural sciences. However, on the whole the problems I raise for these positions would apply equally when they are held in the social sciences so I will not discuss them further here.

There are, however, ‘anti-science in social science positions’ which exist independently of the above, apply only to social science and are rejectionist specifically of social science as science, positions I described in Chapter 3 as ‘anti-naturalist’. A consequence of this rejection is a non-scientific methodology for the social sciences, that of interpretivism. Though I use the term ‘interpretivism’ here this position is variously described as ‘hermeneutics’, ‘ethnography’, ‘field research’ or ‘qualitative methods’. No one term entirely describes what is a huge range of theoretical views and technical procedures within this broad methodological approach. Therefore in using the term ‘interpretivism’ I mean all of those approaches to research that prioritise the interpretation of the actions and meanings of agents, over measurement, explanation and prediction. Interpretivism is mostly, though not entirely confined to sociology and anthropology and forms the basis of symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology and some forms of critical theory (Hobbs and May 1993).

There is often a coincidence of methodological view between those who hold the positions I described in the previous chapter and the anti-naturalists I describe below. For example most (though not all) standpoint feminists advocate the use of interpretivist methods in investigating the social world even though their epistemological critique does not usually distinguish between ‘knowledge production’ in the natural or social

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Science and Social Science: An Introduction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Where Did Science Come From? 8
  • Suggested Further Reading 27
  • 2 - Science and Its Method 28
  • Suggested Further Reading 48
  • 3 - Social Science as Science 49
  • Suggested Further Reading 69
  • 4 - Against Science 70
  • Suggested Further Reading 86
  • 5 - Against Science in Social Science 87
  • Suggested Further Reading 103
  • 6 - Science, Objectivity and Ethics 104
  • Suggested Further Reading 121
  • 7 - New Science and New Social Science 122
  • Suggested Further Reading 141
  • 8 - Conclusion: The Science of Social Science 142
  • Glossary 150
  • References 154
  • Name Index 168
  • Subject Index 172
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