Dictionary of sociologythe oxford pocket dictionary of current ational encyclopedia of the social science in the twenty-first eclectic and sometimes polarizing term, social science is a broad umbrella linking multiple fields, with contention regarding which fields should be included under its purview. Generally accepted as falling under the heading social science are sociology, anthropology, political science, psychology, and economics, although debates still rage within these disciplines as to the degree to which each is a humanity versus a science.
Disciplines such as history and linguistics, while still addressing social life, are less often included as social sciences.In general, social science can be regarded as the scientific method’s application to all things social. It should be noted, however, that most social sciences manifest, to a greater or lesser degree, a humanities emphasis as well as a scientific is still some debate regarding the use of the term social science, with criticism generally aimed at the word science.
Traditionally, the natural sciences, or “hard sciences,” have been characterized by the use of the scientific method, which involves generating testable hypotheses in order to predict future outcomes and the ability to falsify these hypotheses.
When applied to the natural world, the scientific method allows for high degrees of predictability, due to science’s ability to recognize and understand universal laws governing empirical reality.
When applied to the social world, however, comparable levels of prediction and discoveries of analogous universal laws governing human behavior have proven to be more allusive.Due to the social sciences’ limited success in employing the scientific method, they are often referred to as the “soft sciences.
Definitive date can be given for the birth of social science—its emergence is in fact due to a large number of circumstances spanning centuries and some of its rudimentary ideas can be traced to multiple origins, some dating as far back as plato.It is generally accepted that an important era in the emergence of contemporary social science began with the enlightenment and its emphasis on rationality, logic, and methodology as applied to the empirical world.
There are scholars, however, such as lynn mcdonald, who contend that the foundation of social science should be traced back to the sixth century (mcdonald 1993).
Maurice duverger (1961) has argued that the social sciences, despite early roots in grecian inquiries into the nature of man, did not emerge as a distinct form of research until the eighteenth century, when social philosophy bearing a “philosophical attitude” gave way to a new scientific emphasis.
This shift from social philosophy to social science was given impetus by the emergence of positivism as a widely accepted mode of knowledge. First articulated by august comte and best described in his 1848 work a general view of positivism, positivism moved almost entirely away from metaphysical speculation and instead focused on the scientific method’s ability to produce facts and falsifiable statements about the empirical first, much of this new scientific inquiry focused nearly exclusively on the natural world.
Hewing closely to positivism’s tenets, the social sciences sought to discover laws governing the social realm—in effect, laws that allow the predictability of human interaction.
Subsequent years have shown just how elusive are the levels of predictability and precision found in the natural sciences when sought in the social need for a social science also emerged from widespread and often violent revolutions sweeping european intellectual, political, and economic spheres beginning in the seventeenth century.
Economic crisis spurred on by widespread migration to urban centers, widening inequality, and the imperialist ambitions of some european states led many to apply scientific approaches to social behavior, in an attempt to understand and predict social phenomena.Implicit in this project was a distinctly moral component, which scholars such as alan wolfe argue is still central to the social sciences, even if it is not always evident in their practice (wolfe 1989).
While social science attempts an objective evaluation of human and social behavior, by its very nature it must grapple with questions of equality, fairness, cohesion, and happiness, and thus with moral was the case with the natural sciences, much of the early social science literature relied heavily on human observation in deriving its conclusions.
Not until the publication of émile durkheim’s suicide in 1897 was statistical analysis incorporated into social scientific writings.
With the subsequent increase in statistical analysis looking at all forms of social behavior, a divide was created within the social sciences between those using quantitative and those using qualitative methods.
The proponents of quantitative methods often cite their predictive powers and the ability to develop generalizable properties via random samples—allowing social scientists the ability to sample the behavior, opinions, or values of a relatively small number of individuals and apply their findings fairly accurately to larger populations.While at the start of the twenty-first century this divide still exists within the social sciences, a recognition of the need for a more integrative approach is beginning to emerge. Wundt was one of the first intellectuals to utilize human experiments as a methodological tool for the social sciences—a method still predominant within psychology, but found to a lesser degree in the other social hout social science’s history, ethical as well as moral considerations have played an important and interesting role in shaping types of studies and areas of inquiry. It is this ethical and moral dimension that to a degree sets the social sciences apart from the natural sciences.
With its main area of inquiry being the human animal, it has long been recognized that social science, if misused, poses a certain level of they are rare, there have been social scientific studies that were physically or emotionally harmful to the individuals under study.Much was learned from both of these classic social scientific investigations—which are still being studied several decades after they ended—but both also dramatically highlight the potential harm experiments can cause tests r ethical issue confronted by social scientists concerns the use of scientific evidence to further dangerous or prejudiced ideologies, and the ways in which such ideologies can shape research results. In the mismeasure of man (1981), stephen jay gould argues that racial and ethnic prejudices can influence social scientific research in such a way that the scientist’s ideological beliefs are reified by flawed research results.
The racist undertones of these and other early attempts at blending biology and the study of human behavior (to produce what was later coined sociobiology) have made many social scientists suspicious of biological explanations for social behavior.
Nonetheless, by the second half of the twentieth century achievements in evolutionary biology and genetics had sparked new interest in the link between genetics and social scientists must also consider who will use their findings and the manner in which the findings will be used—especially when utilized by government and military institutions.
While social science can provide much insight useful for the formulation of beneficial public policy, it also has the potential to be utilized in unethical ways.Military turned to the social sciences, mainly psychology, to aid them in extracting information from combatants in custody.