Manual No Social Science Without Critical Theory, Volume 25 (Current Perspectives in Social Theory)

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Articles

  1. Nature, Knowledge and Negation (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Volume 26)
  2. Current Perspectives in Social Theory | Emerald Insight
  3. Theory Assessment and Agenda Setting in Political CSR: A Critical Theory Perspective
  4. Critical Perspectives On Accounting

Therefore, we have to critically review our interpretation of inequality. The following argument is based on more than a decade of empirical research on inequality in several countries around the world Jodhka et al , It includes almost 2, qualitative interviews in twelve nation states on four continents. The interviews were conducted in the local languages, transcribed and interpreted by multicultural teams. A few quantitative surveys complemented the study.

This paper will not present the empirical findings of our research on inequality but draws some general conclusions relevant for critical theory. However, some results of that research on Brazil, Germany and Laos will appear in the final section of the paper.

The first two sections deal with the relation between subject and object as well as the relevance of inequality in the social sciences. The third section is devoted to the relation between inequality and capitalism, while the final part looks at the reproduction of inequality. Any social science has to be critical.

Nature, Knowledge and Negation (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Volume 26)

In principle, even Karl Popper would agree with that. A theory has to critically review its own presuppositions. And it develops a tentative truth, which needs to be subjected to critical reasoning as well as empirical tests. According to these standards, any science is critical, even in the natural sciences. The social sciences need to go beyond this notion of critique, however. This is due to the logical interdependence of subject and object, which does not exist to the same degree in the natural sciences. The interdependence of subject and object in the social sciences has three aspects.

First, the object influences the subject. In the social sciences, the concepts, the aims, the issues and the organization of science are part of the object itself. Concepts like society, subject and science were created by society, the scientific object itself. This is even true for some of the more technical concepts. Science takes place in a society and cannot operate fully independently of it. The second aspect of the logical interdependence is the influence of the subject on the object.

Of course, this has already been discovered in the natural sciences as well with the problem of measuring very small objects. However, the problem is much more serious in the social sciences. After a theory is published, the object can alter his or her behavior on the basis of this theory. Marxist revolutions are an example of this. Is the revolution proof of the theory or caused by the theory? This question cannot be answered, which illustrates the interdependence. Finally, the scientific subject and the object often change their own life because of science.

Any insight has consequences for the perspective on the world. After each discovery in the social sciences, one is not the same person anymore.

It is not possible to predict these changes. There is no way to neutralize these influences. One would have to find a language, which is not influenced by any existing language, and one would have to detach the enterprise of science completely from society including the scientists themselves. If this project were to succeed, however, one would miss a big part of the object, i. In the social sciences, we know — at least to a certain degree — which meaning the object gives to itself, what its goals and priorities are, how it views the world, what its behavior means, what kind of emotions are attached to it and a lot more.

And we know all of this because of the logical interdependence of subject and object. We know very little or nothing of this with regard to the natural world. If we model the social sciences according to the natural sciences, we would lose all of this knowledge. To discard this knowledge is not equivalent to become more objective or scientific.

It rather means to become more arbitrary and formalistic. A scientist who is actually not influenced by society and wishes to explain a social fact will have to understand the meaning of this fact first. The scientist approaches an animistic ritual without knowing what it is and what it means. It could be a game, the election of a president, the healing of a sick person or a bonding exercise. But actually, this assumption presupposes that the scientist is member of a society and already familiar with such concepts and actions. Thereby, he or she would be influenced by society — and could influence the object and change his or her own personality in the process of scientific explanation.

For this reason, a completely objective scientist an alien or a machine would have to assume that the observed animistic ritual could be anything. How would the scientist find out what it actually is? If he or she just explains the observed processes, the explanation would read somewhat like this: if person A bangs a drum, persons B and C move their heads forward.

Of course, this movement could be just a coincidence but how would the scientist be able to tell? He or she might be able to observe many such rituals, then establish some similarities and statistically determine correlations between certain movements. Even if we grant that it is possible to correctly identify correlations on this basis which actually would be very difficult and uncertain , what would we have gained? Who cares if people move their heads upon hearing a drum? What we actually want to know is what the ritual means.

In view of this goal, we first have to have the concept of a ritual. And this is social and connected to values and meanings.

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Current Perspectives in Social Theory | Emerald Insight

In the social sciences, we do not know too little, we know too much. And the lack of neutrality and objectivity is actually an asset. We know a lot and we want to know even more. In contrast, we know comparatively little about the natural world. Things get even more complicated when we look at the object itself. The object is a human being or linked to a human being.


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This being is of a similar nature as the scientist. He or she can change on the basis of science — or even alter his or her behavior just to prove the scientist wrong.


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This means that it is not possible to test an explanation in the social sciences in the strong sense of the natural sciences Von Wright, Did the Marxist revolution happen because of Marx or did he predict it correctly? Does the absence of a Marxist revolution prove him wrong or are some of the conditions lacking or did people develop the wrong consciousness — or did they learn something Marx did not yet know? It is impossible to give a reasonable answer to these questions. If we assume that we understand the functioning of societies better some time in the future and are able to reply to these questions, the problem will still persist.

Theory Assessment and Agenda Setting in Political CSR: A Critical Theory Perspective

Let us suppose that a social scientist is actually able to explain society. Since he or she is member of a society as well, it implies that the scientist can predict his or her own life. Thereby, he or she would lose all personal autonomy. We could interpret this as a change of the person on the basis of science: the self-interpretation as a completely determined being. Or we interpret it as the full knowledge of the truth. We cannot exclude the possibility that our behavior is predetermined or that we are controlled by a higher force.

However, this would not really change anything. It would mean that even our scientific insights and the actions based on these insights are pre-determined. But since everything would be pre-determined, we cannot do otherwise anyway. We cannot quit doing science or making revolutions because no matter what we would like to do it would have been predetermined before the fact. And if we actually quit doing science, this would have been predetermined as well. So, we just go on. From these considerations, we can draw some conclusions about the particularities of the social sciences as opposed to the natural sciences.

The social scientist has to understand the meaning of the object before entering into any kind of explanation. At the same time, the scientist always has some kind of preunderstanding of the object, which is the point Hans-Georg Gadamer made when postulating that the humanities pursue a hermeneutic approach rather than an explanation modeled after the natural sciences.

Critical Perspectives On Accounting

This preunderstanding of the object seems to be a functional equivalent of the hypothesis in the natural sciences. The test of the hypothesis in the social sciences would be the confrontation of the preunderstanding with the self-interpretation of the object. The interdependence implies that the object can contradict the scientist. He or she can even contradict the scientific theory itself. However, the relation between preunderstanding and scientific hypothesis is only that of a resemblance since the preunderstanding and its confrontation with the self-interpretation are just preparatory steps.


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The scientific process itself is an explanation, which challenges both the preunderstanding and the self-interpretation.