How the Social Sciences Think

Michael Khun, 2016, How the Social Sciences Think about the Worlds´s Social, Stuttgar, Ibidem

What a book you wrote! Thank you very much.

I already cited your book in a paper. Because it is very useful to me.

Yes, you are right: social sciences are about praising modernity; praising western empire. Avoiding discussions about capitalism and any other discussion about life, real lives and the ways out of war and poverty. It is about avoiding science and scientific practices on social subjects.

Social sciences are about avoiding criticism and accumulating knowledge using moralist false (unilateral) thinking. About modern people (like “us”, who mix leadership and who support it – no class) being together and safe from outside, with the help of the state.

Globalization is a challenge for that kind of reasoning. That is why social sciences are declining. Both in institutional grounds and public prestige.

I want to ask you: do you see any use for social sciences in the future?

What are the reactions of your colleagues reading your criticism?

I answer: my colleagues – both academic and critic – do not discuss or even understand this kind of thinking of yours. Empire as modernity? That is impossible for them to bear. It is not a question of rationale: it is a question of feelings, of repugnance.

Sociologists (at least in my department) avoid technologies and environment, as much they avoid to deal with emotions or violence in analytical terms. They suffer and teach an inferiority complex regarding theory, foreigner sociologists (meaning north-American or English or French or German sociologists and universities), and politicians or CEO people. Critic sociologists, in Coimbra, merge social sciences and literature and arts, as opening epistemological process inside the imaginary world you so well describe.

When I understood that my professional isolation (as teacher and researcher) was not about my concern (prisons and state violence) or my unfriendly personal character, and it was about my non-sociological approach (I did never receive any criticism about what I do: just silence, no one feels the need to say or write something about it. Like a kind of alien talk. So, I did not know I was doing wrong) I decided to learn better what is sociology about. I decided to become a better sociologist that my colleagues.

That is how I found that we, as sociology teachers, do lie hard to our students, for instance, when we say that sociology and politics are different and parallel activities (as Weber famously teach his students). Or when they say that one must do theory and data at the same interactive process of research and, at the same time, organize different teaching rows on theory and methods at school.

So, I decided to get rid of my sociology social identity. I still am a sociologist (what would I be teaching sociology?). I am now against what sociology is about today. That is why I need to find a sociology worth to teach. I argue sociology needs an update (I know you dislike the argument, with good reasons. What can I do? I hope for acceptance).

You do not help much in this point. Can we, social scientists, become scientists without using social as adjective? What can we do about it? Or are we condemned to fail till we are not needed anymore?

I propose do link social theory to biology and evolutionary theory and change the subject of our science: human species as a single experience of life would be very different than modern society. I call it instability sociology or centrifugal sociology (society is a special level of real world we can find looking at the conscious (by imageology or hormonal methods) and not a utopian modern Eden) and its operational concept is state of mind: states of mind are instable and centrifugal – they project the body out of the body. So, one can also find a material base to discuss what normative events are about: orientation through orientation devices, as time and space marks.

I found some good insights in Comte (when he intends sociology to become merge into science), in Parsons (when he intend sociology to merge with biology, even the system idea is not a good entry), in Weber (when he presents the spirit of capitalism, one of the states of mind one can describe). Moscovici, Lahire and Therborn talk about the addition of social analysis to power. They ask us to suspend this one eye way of looking at society. One can consider analyzing caring (private) part of society that produces therapeutic and identity social practices out of the scope of power network.

All these proposals meant to give an opportunity to equalize every one (societies, communities and people) regarding social analysis.

Reading your book, I wonder am I doing well or am just repeating the same errors every sociologist does? I have to read again.



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António Dores (2017, 3 Abril). How the Social Sciences Think. Para que serve a Sociologia? Recuperado em 28 de Fevereiro de 2024, de

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