SCIENCE, POSITIVISM AND SOCIAL INQUIRY Gurminder K Bhambra MODULE OUTLINE - 2013/14 Week Topics Lecturer 2 Science, Positivism and Social Inquiry GKB 3 Interpretation & Realism GKB 4 Values, Validity and Ideal Types GKB 5 Standpoint Epistemology: Marxist & Feminist GKB 6 Postcolonial Epistemologies GKB 7 The Mobilities Turn NG 8 Social Science in Crisis? NG 9 DTC Conference - Nottingham 10 Live Methods NG CONTACT DETAILS Convenor, Lecturer / Seminar Tutor Professor Gurminder K Bhambra Sociology, R2.35, Ramphal [email protected] Office Hours: Weds, 10-11am or by appointment Lecturer / Seminar Tutor Professor Nicholas Gane Sociology, R3.15, Ramphal [email protected] Office Hours: Tues, 4-5pm or by appointment ASSESSMENT Final essay, 3000 words due in week 1 of the spring term Tuesday 7th January 2014, by 2pm E-submission – a link will be available on the module website Essay Question: Discuss the strengths and limitations of the epistemological framework underpinning your planned research. Or, you can choose your own question, but this must be agreed with your seminar tutor by week 8 at the latest. WHAT THE MODULE IS ABOUT… How do we know what we claim to know? How can we justify what we claim to know to others? This gives rise to questions about features of the world that make our knowledge of it possible, but also potentially fallible. How do we explain how knowledge is produced? How do we explain erroneous beliefs and how do we know that they are erroneous? WHAT IS SCIENCE? These issues are connected to the emergence of science and its self-understanding It is a product of strict ‘norms’ – method It is secured by institutions that reinforce these norms – universities, research laboratories, peer-review journals. Science is presented as rising above particular contexts (universality), but has a history, which, insofar as it involves changing ideas, must also be a history of error and correcting error. WHAT IS SCIENCE? The possibility of ‘objectivity’ in circumstances of possible ‘subjective bias’ Knowledge vs. Belief What counts as evidence? How is evidence produced? Theory-independent observation? Falsification Naïve As process Role of anomalies Progressive problem shift Degenerative problem shift SCIENCE AND SOCIAL INQUIRY Science is a social activity, which implies human beings are of nature and distinct from it, capable of acting in relation to it and ‘misrepresenting it’. Representing nature and representing society may be different activities. Natural science might be thought of as a human activity accounting for a reality external to that activity Social inquiry is more problematic. It is an activity accounting for human activities of which it is a part. What does this mean?.... SOCIAL INQUIRY Debates on the nature of social inquiry are implicated with debates on natural science. Unity of method Criticism of positivism applied to social inquiry Criticism of positivism applied to natural science Consequences ... Pluralism of positions and conflicting ontological claims about the (true) nature of natural and social worlds. Pluralism of positions and conflicting epistemological claims about how these natural and social worlds can be represented in knowledge. These differences more pronounced in social inquiry SOCIAL INQUIRY Generalities/ regularities: ‘Structures’ – these are frequently taken-for-granted or routinised. ‘Cultures’ – humans are social beings and their behaviours are reinforced by groups and the meanings that inform their interactions. Unique events and ‘unintended consequences’: Emphasis on ‘particularities’ and case study approaches. Unlikely that social inquiry wouldn’t address objects of inquiry that involved a mix of structural and cultural regularities and unique case-specific events.