Social Science Mehodology: A Unified Framework, 2 edition

Social Science Mehodology: A Unified Framework, 2 edition
  • Author: John Gerring
    Publisher: Cambridge University Press
    Genres: Science Engineering
    Publish Date: February 13, 2012
    ISBN-10: 0521132770
    Pages: 522
    File Type: PDF
    Language: English

Book Preface

The natural sciences talk about their results. The social sciences talk about their methods.

Henri Poincaré1

In a very crucial sense there is no methodology without logos, without thinking about thinking. And if a firm distinction is drawn – as it should be – between methodology and technique, the latter is no substitute for the former. One may be a wonderful researcher and manipulator of data, and yet remain an unconscious thinker . . . the profession as a whole is grievously impaired by methodological unawareness. The more we advance technically, the more we leave a vast, uncharted territory behind our backs.

Giovanni Sartori2

The field of social science methodology has been hyperactive over the past several decades. Methods, models, and paradigms have multiplied and transformed with dizzying speed, fostering a burst of interest in a heretofore moribund topic. One sign of the growing status of this field is the scholarly vituperation it inspires. Terms such as interpretivism, rational choice, poststructuralism, constructivism, randomization, positivism, and naturalism are not just labels for what we do; they are also fighting words.

Meanwhile, venerable debates over power, class, and status seem to have subsided. It is not that we no longer talk about these subjects, or care about them. Yet there appears to be greater consensus within the academy on normative political issues than there was, say, in the 1960s and 1970s. We are all social democrats now – for better, or for worse. Debates continue, especially over the role of race, gender, and identity. However, they do not seem to be accompanied by a great deal of rancor. Thus, over the past few decades methodological disagreements have largely displaced disagreements over substantive issues as points of conflict at conferences, at faculty meetings, and on editorial boards. Methodology, not ideology, seems to define the most important cleavages within the social sciences today.3 Readers disturbed by this development may feel that there is altogether too much methodology inhabiting the social sciences today – too much discussion about how to get there, and not enough about what’s there. They may be partial to C. Wright Mills’ admonition: “Methodologists, get to work!” This is consistent with the plea for a problem-centered social science, one directed toward solving problems of public concern rather than the application of particular methods.4

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