Value in Social Theory: A Selection of Essays on Methodology

By Gunnar Myrdal; Paul Streeten | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

by PAUL STREETEN

I F a man has been successively university professor, government adviser, member of parliament, director of a study of the Negro in American life, cabinet minister, bank director, chairman of a planning commission and international civil servant; if, a citizen of a small country, he has occupied these positions in the last thirty years in different countries, has travelled widely both east and west, and has remained all the time a curious observer, we should not be surprised if he came to ask himself certain fundamental questions: Can one be at the same time objective, practical and idealistic? What is the relation between wanting to understand and wanting to change society? How can we free ourselves from thinking in terms possibly appropriate to an earlier age, but no longer appropriate to ours, though still powerful in our intellectual tradition? What are the new presuppositions of social thought which can do justice to the changes in social organization?

Yet, Gunnar Myrdal asked himself these and similar questions as a young man in Stockholm, before embarking on the voyage described above. His subsequent career looks almost like a series of attempts to extort from concrete problems time and time again the replies to these and similar fundamental questions. His biography might be an exercise in practical methodology.

So at least it may appear from the point of view of this book. The following collection of essays is intended to illustrate his repeated attempts to explore the logical, political and moral foundations of social thought and action, as he pursued diverse academic and political activities.

The volume is a companion to Myrdal's youthful and iconoclastic Political Element in the Development of Economic Theory.1 From his young days as a rebel against the firmly

____________________
1
1930; English edition, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, Cambridge Harvard University Press, 1953.

-ix-

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Value in Social Theory: A Selection of Essays on Methodology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction ix
  • Part 1 1
  • Chapter Two - The Relation Between Social Theory and Social Policy 9
  • Part 2 55
  • Chapter Four - American Ideals and The American Conscience 65
  • Chapter Five - Valuations and Bbliefs 71
  • Chapter Six - Encountering the Negro Problem 89
  • Chapter Seven Facts and Valuations 119
  • Chapter Eight - Facets of the Negro Problem 165
  • Chapter Nine - The Principle of Cumulation 198
  • Part 3 206
  • Chapter Eleven - The Logical Crux of All Science 231
  • Postscript 237
  • Index 263
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