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Social Science and Social Criticism - Essay Example

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The relationship between social science and social criticism is most evident when examining the historic context of development of sociology as a science in the 20-th century. Development of social science, and international relations in particular, was strictly along positivistic, scientific-objectivist lines up until mid-1960s.1 The work by Kenneth Waltz's Theory of International Politics (1979)2 is generally regarded as the milestone in the history of international relations: it marks the point at which the positivist epistemology began its decline and the normative approach was undertaken…
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Social Science and Social Criticism
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Download file to see previous pages This approach allows being practical in a moral rather than simply instrumental sense: "Critical theory, through the process of self-understanding and self-reflection, is able to provide a critique of the existing social order and point to its immanent capacity for change and for the realization of human potential."4 Thus, critical theory raises meta-theoretical questions about the very concept of theorizing, nature of thought, acquisition of knowledge and how social science as a discipline constructs itself in its essence. Basically, critical theory is the leading voice in an ongoing debate about foundations. Thus, in order to investigate the relationship between social science and political or social criticism, an insight into the critical theory and how it is allocated among contemporary views is required.
In accordance
Modernism, positivism, and pragmatism
In accordance with modernism, there is an impersonal underlying reality that has no intrinsic meaning, exists independent from any human activity or perception and acts by its own laws. Through discovery of these laws the genuine truth can be found. At the same time, human intelligence is perceived to have authority and is distinct from any other natural factors. Science, in its turn, is a projection of human intelligence and in its purest form has supreme intellectual authority in revelation of truth. Consequently, science is the only way for mankind to become free from traditions. So, the questions that is raised is whether social science should be free from binary thinking and shift from oppositional to relational thinking.5 The methodology applied by modernism is rooted in epistemology: rationalism and empiricism. While empiricism relies on a posteriori experience and accumulation of data through senses in a search for the ultimate truth, rationalism is centered on application of correct principles of logical reasoning. Both principles can be found in pragmatism and positivism.6
Positivism approach discussed above was mainly used in social science as the only rational and objective one. Through neutral objective observation without any influence on the observed value free knowledge about truth can be discovered. Thus, this is the only knowledge that can be regarded as the true knowledge, as it is founded on reality, "Nature's own language". 7
The pragmatic approach, that is used in critical theory and now is adopted by social science, does not concentrate on the nature of things and rejects existence of the true foundations for knowledge. Truth, as implied by pragmatists, has an intrinsic instrumental value in interpretation of every belief by tracing the practical consequences. Going even further then this, truth and reality is a creation of human mind, thus a pragmatic approach lies beyond epistemology.8 Consequently, all knowledge is normative, and human mind can never ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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