Ideology and the Social Sciences

By Graham C. Kinloch; Raj P. Mohan | Go to book overview

4
Sociological Research on Discontinuous Change
Henk A. BeckerThere are reasons to suspect, as will be demonstrated in this chapter, that research on discontinuous change has remained underdeveloped in sociology. Three hypotheses can be proposed for this neglect. First, that ideological reasons have played a role. We are dealing with an area of sociological research that for a long time seemed to offer little opportunity for arriving at the kind of lawlike statements that are preferred in sociology, particularly in the discipline's analytical tradition. Analytical sociology has evolved from positivism, and we consequently need to check whether a positivist bias is still active. Second, we can hypothesize that a scarcity of data has been responsible for this neglect: Analysis of the effects of a major war, for instance, requires data that cover a number of decades. Until recently this kind of information was extremely scarce. Third, we can hypothesize that the limited state of the art in the analysis of social problems has contributed to this problem also. Until the early 1980s sociologists did not realize that the major effects of discontinuous change might be felt for a long time, sometimes even more than half a century. However, the severity of these long-term effects has become apparent in the mid-1990s.In this chapter we want to explore answers to two questions:
1. Has the study of discontinuous change been neglected in sociology, and if so, how can this neglect be explained?
2. If the study of discontinuous change has been neglected in sociology, how could this neglect be mitigated or eliminated?

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