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I can understand the desire to hold an academic post, or some other post

that calls for a 'social scientist'. There is also a matter of funding from public
and private sources. One might need the label 'social scientist' in order to
qualify. These are understandable motives. We should nevertheless resist
them because of the element of fraud. If one is doing work which is not
science, perhaps closer to art and philosophy, why not say so? To answer
my rhetorical question, there is the risk that the art or philosophy related
social investigation might not be of interest to philosophers or artists. Does
this possible lack of interest depend on the 'social' aspect, or the quality of
the work? The lily pad approach is to say to the artists, I am doing science,
and to the scientists, I am doing art.
Items like social theory, postmodernism and post-structuralism are
methodological stances. They identify views, somewhat different from each
other, but with some overlaps, which distrust conventional science. They
advocate certain approaches to the investigation of social phenomena. They
are not the phenomena. They terms refer to suggestions, foolish suggestions
in my view, but suggestions nevertheless, as to how to think about society.
Methods of approach are not the same as phenomena to be studied. For that
reason alone they do not qualify for a place on any list of substantive topics
for scientific investigation. However, the success and popularity with some
poorly informed parts of the general public of these far fetched approaches is
something that could be studied scientifically.
Post-structuralism is particularly interesting for the present investigation.
Extreme versions claim is that all rational thought is a delusion. We are
fooled if we think we can be coherent. Weaker versions hold that science,
and particularly social science, is incoherent, and so can make no claims for
any kind of objectivity or legitimacy. It is probably the most openly hostile
stance to social science. I believe that rational argument can deal with those
claims, but for writers who believe they have succeeded in debunking all
rational endeavour, there is no need to deal with my arguments, or any
arguments based on rationality.
The other three items, globalisation, risk and networks, have an implied
methodological stance, though on the face of it they do refer to social
phenomenon. The first implicitly suggests that something new and very
general is at work, which includes everything from financial markets to
travel and access to information. The claim of newness is simply false. All
these things, including global marketing of products, have long histories.
There are two issues. Have we seen a change, or discontinuity, in the nature
of global interaction, or the 'quality' of it, to use a traditional Marxist term, as
a result of the change in the amount of worldwide interaction ?
The second issue turns on whether global interaction can be fruitfully
studied as a single phenomenon, or is best studied as lots of phenomena

v see no historical break, and I see more potential for progress in breaking
down the worldwide interacting phenomena into aseries of separate but
related topics. I could be wrong. Are the advocates of the globalisation
pro gram on to something? The answer depends on what the advocates are
able to come up with. So far, the 'globalisation' advocates have given us a
heady mixture platitudes and unsupported wild observations. This may seIl,
but it is not science.
The 'risk' and 'networks' writers take something out of context, and hope
to say useful things about it. Financial risk is one thing, health risk is
another. But what about risk as a topic, apart from any of these possible
applications? Again, the proof of the wisdom of the strategy defining a
territory is in what it discovers. So far, we get very serious sounding
statements of the obvious, side by side with the obviously wrong. Of course,
much of mathematics works on exactly this principle of abstracting from
context. The 'risk for its own sake' and 'networks for their own sake' writers
do not like mathematics. They Iike a special kind of prose which cannot be
damaged in translation. The endeavour has little in common with science.
These last six topics would result in a very different picture of social
science than the one we can derive from the six topics I actually used, or
ones like them. For the reasons given above, I reject that alternative list, and
argue that it is not representative of social science. There is a final possible
objection to my way of going about the task of capturing 'social science'. I
chose topics on which I guessed that each of the social sciences would have
a good number of recent articles. That turned out to be right. They all do.
But what about topics which tend to be exclusive to a single social science?
Suppose the topics were