A Science of the Social: Social Science, the Crisis of the Disciplines, and the Possibility of a More Substantively Rational World

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The emergence of complexity studies in mathematics, the sciences, cultural studies and the humanities has undermined the seemingly solid separation of truth and values underpinning knowledge production for the past five centuries, seriously challenged the premises of the divisions among the social sciences that grew out of the debates of the nineteenth century, and indeed renewed discussions over what kind of knowledge of the social world can be produced. It is argued that authoritative knowledge, that is knowledge in the form of defensible accounts, may still be constructed. Such accounts are valid for particular times and places—this world, now—and although not generalizable may offer the potential for imagining possible futures or transition scenarios, including those that would lead to a more substantively rational world. The implications of this work suggest that an understanding of the social world in our contemporary period of systemic transformation must conceive values as an integral part of a historical social science and not simply as a matter of "bias" or individual ethics or moral code.


Keywords: Social Science, Complexity Studies, Cultural Studies, Substantive Rationality
Stream: Sociology, Geography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Prof. Richard E. Lee

Director, Fernand Braudel Center, Binghamton University
Binghamton, NY, USA

Professor Lee concentrates on the study of long-term, large-scale social change from the world-systems perspective. In the Department of Sociology he teaches the theory and methodology of historical social science; the cultural construction of inequalities; structures of knowledge, cultural studies and science studies; and World-Systems Analysis. Professor Lee is Director of the Fernand Braudel Center. There he supervises a research-working group on the “Cultural Forms of the World-System” and oversees the Harpur College Dean’s Workshops on “Utopistics” and, with Gerald Kutcher, “Science Studies.” His research agenda focuses on the long-term intellectual and disciplinary structures of knowledge formation in writings that range across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Professor Lee has published in such journals as Review, Protosociologie, International Review of Sociology, Contemporary Sociology, Journal of World-Systems Research, and Futures. Recent publications included Life and Times of Cultural Studies: The Politics and Transformation of the Structures of Knowledge (2003), and the collections World-Systems Analysis: Contemporary Research and Directions (edited with Gerhard Preyer, 2004) and Overcoming the Two Cultures: Science versus the Humanities in the Modern World-System (edited with Immanuel Wallerstein, 2004).

Ref: I08P0295