Social Science: Philosophical and Methodological Foundations

By Gerard Delanty | Go to book overview

3
The Dialectical
Imagination: Marxism,
Critique and
Emancipation

Introduction: Defining the Dialectic

The previous two chapters looked at the classical conceptions of social science as modeled on the natural sciences or as modeled on the human sciences. The principal differences between positivism and hermeneutics concerned the question of the unity of the scientific method (causal explanation and empirical observation) and the role of values within science. In this debate the positivistic conception of social science has undoubtedly had the upper hand and to varying degrees has been the most influential in the institutionalization of social science. The hermeneutic idea has also clearly been influential but has not had the same impact as positivism in as far as the scientific status of social science is concerned. These two approaches can also be seen as mirroring the conflict between constructivism and realism, with hermeneutics as representing an emergent constructivist view of social reality, and positivism as a realist view.

Yet, for all their differences the two methodologies share a common presupposition: value-freedom in science. While some of the classical positivists such as Saint-Simon and Comte believed that scientism entailed a ‘scientific politics’, this has mostly been a marginal episode in the history of positivism which has stood for

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