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Social Science under Debate: A Philosophical Perspective Paperback – November 16, 1999
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'The main merit of this work is a wide range of relevant material, reliably and intelligently assembled, clearly presented. No one can read this volume without learning a great deal, and it could be used as a backbone of a teaching course, or an intelligent person could use it in an initiation to each of the fields. Clarity, erudition and range are the merits.'(The late Ernest A. Gellner, Central European University)|
'The book is scholarly yet lively; comprehensive yet unified around a few central powerful ideas; profound yet entertaining reading with one bon mot after another; unorthodox yet constructive; a sort of vademecum for the bewitched but critical rover through the manifold of contemporary social studies.'(Joseph Agassi, Tel Aviv and York Universities)|
'We should welcome the book for its author, subject, and style. He maps what is wrong and what is strong in energetic, opinionated prose. I can't wait to teach from the published version, not to mention embellish my own methodological essays with bright quotations from it.'(Charles Tilly, Columbia University)|
'This book covers a vast domain with a firm grasp of the big issues. Its great advantage lies in treating all this material from a unified perspective.'(Nicholas Rescher, Pittsburgh University)
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Top Customer Reviews
This book will be equally invaluable to those seriously working to understand society and improve it, and repentent postmodernists wishing to be cured of their affliction. The book covers, in a scholarly, systemic, and often humorous and entertaining manner, all the social sciences (including anthropology, demography, linguistics, economics, sociology, political science, culturology and history) and sociotechnologies (including the law, management science, normative economics, and action theory). The following are excerpts from various professional reviews:
From the dust jacket:
"We should welcome the book for its author, subject, and style" (Charles Tilly, Columbia University).
"The book is scholarly yet lively; comprehensive yet unified around a few central powerful ideas; profound yet entertaining reading with one bon mot after another; unorthodox yet constructive" (Joseph Agassi, Tel Aviv and York Universities).
"No one can read [this volume] without learning a great deal, and [it] could be used as backbone of a teaching course, or an intelligent person could use it in an initiation to each of the fields [covered by the book]. Clarity, erudition and range are the merits" (the late Ernest Gellner).
He then puts the various social science disciplines to this philosophical test by directing particularly strong criticism against two developments in social science. The first is the popularity of relativistic and constructivistic theories which renounce scientific objectivity. Anthropology is the main target of this criticism. Amusingly, he always puts the word "interpretation" in scare quotes and condescendingly refers to the "hermeneuticists and postmodernists" whose irresponsible scepticism underlies what he calls the "Verstehen" school of social science. I think he fires away a little too indiscriminately in these sections, but some of his points are certainly valid.
The second object of criticism is the spreading of economic thought to disciplines other than economics, in the form of rational choice and public choice theory, for instance.Read more ›
The book fits well readers that have had an interest in natural sciences and philosophy, but are weak on social sciences. This book gives a good initiation in the field.
The book is witty and insightful.
Some sample quotes below.
The first part of the book is on Basic Social Science.
Chapter 1, From Natural Science to Science
Bunge sketches society as system with four subsystems. One natural (Biologocial) and three artificial (Economy, Polity and Culture).
Chapter 2, Sociology
Chapter 3, Positive Economics
"Economics theory is still a semiscience."
Bunge gives advice for progress. Such as
1. Brush up your philosophy
2. Study the economy more
3. Remain ideologically neutral
4. Focus on systems rather than on individuals or wholes
5. Do not isolate the economy; treat is as a subsystem of society coupled with the natural environment, the polity, and the culture.
Chapter 4, Political Science
Good introduction. More in "Political Philosophy", Bunge 2008.
Chapter 5, Culturology
Chapter 6, History
The second part of the book is on Sociotechnology: the design of policies and plans for the maintenance, repair, or construction of social systems, private or public, on the basis of social science.
Chapter 7, Action theory
On Marxism and Pragmatism: "they both minimize the role of theory."
"It is impossible to build a pragmatist theory of action, rational or not.Read more ›