Small Happinesses The Feminist Struggle to Integrate Social Research with Social Activism
ROBERTA SPALTER-ROTHAND HEIDI HARTMANN
The struggle to balance social science inquiry with social activism has been central in the lives of two generations of women. The first generation of researcher/activists was also the first group of women to be trained as social scientists in the new research universities of the late nineteenth-century United States. During this period, academic social science was in the process of becoming specialized and professionalized but was still oriented toward the illumination and solution of social problems (Fitzpatrick 1990). As part of the first wave of the feminist movement, these women were confident that the positivist method of social science inquiry and the voice of the social science expert could be employed in the service of progressive reform. A second generation of women, schooled in both the social sciences and the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, became researcher/activists during the second wave of the feminist movement. Like the first generation, these women also use academic social science to raise public consciousness, advance public recognition of social problems, mobilize political support to change public agendas, and encourage structural reform. But unlike the first generation, who was committed to scientific objectivity as the basis of social reform, the second generation is more critical of the power relations embedded in the positivist method of the social sciences and is more ambivalent about its ability to bring about social reform.
In this chapter we first contrast the methodological views of these two generations of women. We then situate ourselves and our current research on work and welfare within what we have labeled "the dual vision of feminist policy research." This vision is an attempt to synthesize the views of the two generationsto create research that meets both the standards of positivist social science and feminist goals of doing research "for" rather than "on" women. Ideally, the research that results from this vision should provide reliable evidence while main
Roberta Spalter-Rothand Heidi Hartmann, Small Happinesses: The Feminist-Struggle to Integrate Social Research with Social Activism,in Heidi Gottfried, ed. Feminism and Social Change(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996): 206-24. Reprinted by permission.