Social Science

"The road to relativism is paved with the best intentions and the worst of arguments"   – Philip Kitchner

"Physicists and chemists are not smarter than sociologists, they just study much easier problems"  – Alan Sokal

"Once the anchor of reason has been cut, one's craft may go anywhere. One may become a St. Francis or equally a Hitler."  Brand Blanshard

"Envy is the vice of mankind"   Immanuel Kant

Social Science is an ‘umbrella’ term that refers to scientific fields outside the natural sciences.

Social Sciences can be divided into three main groups: 
 1. Social Science
 2. Humanities – Social Sciences
 3. Humanities – Classical

Significant Social Science Theories

Critical Theory
Critical Theory is blend of Marxist theory; the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud; the works of Max Weber and Georg Simmel (non-positivist sociologist); and the five “Frankfurt School” theorists: Herbert Marcuse (“One-Dimensional Man”), Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, Jurgen Habermas. 
Critical Theory attempts to examine and critically analyze society and culture.  It arose to explain why communist Utopias hadn’t come to power to replace fascists regimes who gained power in the early twentieth century.  The early critical theorists blamed free, liberal societies for allowing and enabling the conditions that led to fascist takeovers; that everyday, ordinary people were complicit, explicitly or implicitly, in the evils that lead to fascist horrors.  Modern Critical theorists have been described as revisionist Marxist intellectuals, where they seek to revise Karl Marx’s ideas about the transition to socialism and that revolution through force is not necessary to achieve a socialist society. 

Concern for social "base and superstructure" is one of the remaining (19th-century) Marxist philosophical concepts in much contemporary critical theory.

The interpretations of society and culture is a highly complex subject having strong historical precedence. It struggles with human biases (power and vanity); the effects of science and technology (the recasting of the common laborer and the demands for technical skills and education); the drama of individual and collective understandings of freedom, liberty, risk taking, enterprise, responsibility and accountability.
In a television interview (1977), the famous Critical Theorists, Herbert Marcuse, remarked that much of what happened in the name of Critical Theory had become dangerously anti-intellectual.

Dialectical Materialism Theory
The theory that every economic order grows to a state of maximum efficiency but also develops internal contradictions or weakness that contribute to its decay.  Dialectical Materialism (DM) is a strand of Marxism blended with Hegel’s dialectics (the resolve of thesis and antitheses arguments with outcome of a synthesis).  Joseph Stalin codified D.M. as diamat and imposed it as the doctrine of Marxism-Leninism.

Feminist Theory
Explores the nature of gender inequalities (political, economic and social rights; reproductive rights; equal opportunities).  Feminist theory examines women’s social roles and societal experiences while also promoting women’s rights, interests and issues.  According to professor of sociology Joyce McCarl Nielsen, “Feminist theory attempts to answer questions like, ‘why does gender inequality seem to be hard-wired into our social structures and into the ideologies that support them but not necessarily into the minds and psyches of individual women and men?’  Many other questions vary enormously, but they share three unifying premises:
 1. women are subordinated, oppressed or disadvantaged.
 2. seek an explanation of women’s inequality.
 3. the believe that something should be done about it.

Feminist Theories have an emancipatory theme. Their purpose is to liberate and at the same time they try to explain and understand. 

Phronetic Social Science Theory
Phenomena based on interpretation of the Aristotelian concept phronesis – practical judgment, common sense or prudence.  Intellectual discourse on which social actions are good or bad for humans and in regards to value and power.  Researchers attempt to answer the following value-rational questions:
 1. Where are we going?
 2. Is this development desirable?
 3. Who gains and who loses, and by which mechanisms of power?
 4. What, if anything, should we do about it?

Post-colonial Theory
Post-colonial theory analyses and accounts for the cultural legacy of colonialism.  It attempts to learn how society can move beyond the colonial period and to establish an enlighten understanding that leads to mutual respect.

Postmodernism Theory

Postmodernism is a philosophical movement that is after the ‘modern’ period – from the inception of the intellectual movement called the Enlightenment to the end of World War II.  It is critical of Enlightenment rationality for its perceived ‘ideological’ role in maintaining political or economic power; it rejects a perceived bourgeois, elitist culture and mistrusts the ‘grand narratives’ of modernity (Progress, Enlightenment, Emancipation, Marxism).

Postmodernism is built on two principles:  

 1) knowledge principle: radical skepticism as to whether objective knowledge or truth is obtainable and a commitment to cultural constructivism. 

 2) political principle. the belief that society is formed of systems of power and hierarchies, which decide what can be known and how; that oppressive power structures constrain humanity and are to be deplored. 

The Postmodern movement is often associated with schools of thought such as deconstruction, post-structuralism, and institutional critique. In the 1970s a group of poststructuralists in France developed a radical critique of modern philosophy with roots in Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger, and became known as postmodern theorists, notably including Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault and Jean-Francois Lyotard.

Postmodernism involves the belief that realities are only social constructs, subject to change inherent to time and place.  It emphasizes the role of language, power relations, and motivations.  It attacks the use of sharp classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial.  Postmodernism holds realities to be plural and relative, and dependent on who the interested parties are and what their interests consist of. It upholds the belief that there is no absolute truth and the way in which different people perceive the world is subjective.  It attempts to criticize a perceived modernist overconfidence by contrasting the difference between confident speakers and their positions versus how confident they need to be to serve their supported purposes. Above all, postmodernists attack science and its goal of attaining objective knowledge about a reality which exists independently of human perceptions which they saw as merely another form of constructed ideology dominated by bourgeois, western assumptions (academic grievance neuroticism: ‘Bourgeois Boot up the Butt’).

Some analytic philosophers still tend to dismiss Nietzsche as inconsistent, speculative, meaningless, promotes obscurantism and practicing something other than "real" philosophy (eg, adds nothing to analytical or empirical knowledge).

Recent scholarly researcher points out the downsides of extreme or deconstructive postmodernism:  politically correct thought police; the complete dumbing down of the education system in order to avoid unpleasant grades and ranking; the pervasive erosion of first amendment rights (eg, freedom of speech vs. freedom against someone bruising one’s sensitive ego); the view that everybody is either an innocent victim or a wicked oppressing force;  the trumping up of charges for those it imagines are the great oppressors;  the creation of a fashionable ‘victim chic’ culture which erodes self-responsibility, demonizes so much of life’s unavoidable messiness and trivializes the real victims of oppression. 

Integral philosopher Ken Wilber is characteristically direct:  “everything is ‘socially constructed’ is the mantra of the extremist wing of postmodernism.  They think that different cultural worldviews are entirely arbitrary, anchored in nothing but power or prejudice or some “ism” or another—sexism, racism, speciesism, phallocentrism, capitalism, logocentrism.”   more postmoderism...

Rational Choice Theory
Rational choice theory is a framework to understand and model social and economic behavior.  It is the dominate mindset in school of microeconomics.   The key assumption of rational behavior is “wanting more rather than less of a good”.  It applies to the spheres of economics, political science, sociology and philosophy.  It is used as a tool in finding the most cost-effective means to achieve a specific goal without reflecting on the worthiness of that goal.  Rational choice theory does not examine the biological, psychological, and sociological roots that make people see the benefits encouraging them to kiss another, cheat on a test, use cocaine, or murder someone.  All that is relevant are the costs of doing so, which are external, not internal, to the individual.  In the rational choice perspective a criminal does not consider the costs of self-punishment by feelings of guilt, shame or remorse when committing a crime.  It is a social theory that does not address the role of an individual’s sense of morals or ethics in decision-making.  Because rational choice theory lacks understanding of consumer motivation, some economists restrict its use to understanding business behavior where goals are usually very clear.  Emeritus professor of economics (UCLA) Armen Alchian points out, competition in the market encourages businesses to maximize profits (in order to survive).

Social Constructionism Theory
Theories of knowledge that consider how social phenomena or objects of consciousness develop in social contexts.  Social construct is a concept or practice that is the construct (artifact) of a particular group.  A major focus of social constructionism is to uncover the ways in which individuals and groups participate in the construction of their perceived social reality. It involves looking at the ways social phenomena are created, institutionalized, known, and made into tradition by humans.

Structural Functionalism Theory
Structural functionalism concentrates on the positive and negative functions of social structures.  Societal functionalism is a particular type of structural functionalism that aims to explain the role of social structures and institutions in society, the relationship between these structures, and the manner in which these structures constrain the actions of individuals.

The classic societal structure involves “patriarchy” and “matriarchy”.  Early social relations have their origins in the basic forces of production (eg, ‘who puts the food on the table’).  From the introduction of the heavy plow men began to dominate the public sphere of government, education, technology, science, religion and politics.  And women dominated the private sphere of family, hearth and home.  This division is often referred to as male production and female reproduction.  Agrarian societies began to arise around 4,000-2000 BCE, in both East and West, as was the dominate mode of production until the industrial revolution.  As long as agrarian societies demand physical human labor for subsistence (ie, heavy plowing), those societies inevitably and unavoidably placed a premium on male physical strength and mobility.  The industrial revolution removed the emphasis on male strength and replaced it with gender-neutral engines – the women’s movement emerged for the first time in history on any sort of large scale (Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women was written in 1792).  Social structures evolved to the point that physical strength did not overwhelmingly determine power in culture.  Feminist researcher Janet Chafetz puts it, the status of women in the late industrial societies is higher than in any other surplus-producing society in history – including the horticultural.

Professor of sociology George Ritzer concludes, “According to structural functionalists, individuals have little to no control over the ways in which particular structures operate.  Individuals are ranked according to the degree to which they contribute to the survival of society.  High-ranking positions offer high rewards that make them worth an individual’s time and effort to occupy.  The structural functionalist account of stratification has been criticized on the grounds that there must be other ways to motivate individuals to occupy particular positions and perform certain tasks without such a disparate system of rewards.”