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Social Science in Question: Towards a Postdisciplinary Framework

by Mark J Smith SAGE Publications Ltd
Pub Date:
Pbk 352 pages
AU$89.00 NZ$93.04
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How do social scientists study the social world? Is social scientific practice in transformation? Can social science learn from its own past?Social Science in Question provides an accessible and authoritative guide to both traditional debates and new approaches to knowledge construction in the social sciences. The book takes the reader on an intellectual journey starting with the story of modern science and the impact that this has had on social scientific practice, and going on to outline and critically review the major approaches to social scientific inquiry, ranging from positivism to postmodernism. This innovative text poses questions about the recent 'cultural turn' in the social sciences. The central dilemmas of the philosophy of social sciences are readdressed in the light of contemporary debates on: perception and imagination; detachment and involvement; simplicity and complexity; representation and reality; and subjectivity and objectivity.The text features illustrations and activities which enable students to think through the implications of each approach to social scientific practice direct examples and illustrations from across the social scientific disciplines - sociology, cultural and media studies, psychology, criminology, envionmental studies, social policy and politics short readings at the end of each chapter, which are integrated into the activities and discussed in the main text summaries, marginal notes and diagrams to help students to identify key issues and arguments.Throughout the text, readers are encouraged to think carefully about what it means to: study the social world in a scientific way; make connections between what they do and the everyday lives of the people they study; and look beyond their discipline and think in a postdisciplinary way.Social Science in Question addresses the needs of advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students across the social sciences on courses addressing theories of knowledge construction and their implications for research practice, and the philosophy of the social sciences. It is the Course Text for the Open University's Postgraduate Foundation Module (D820 The Challenge of the Social Sciences).

Social Science as a Situated Practice The Story of Science The Emergence of the Social Sciences Imagination and Complexity in the Social Sciences Paradigms, Conventions and Relativism Language, Discourse and Culture Rethinking Representation in the Social Sciences Situated Knowledges Rethinking Knowledge and Reality

`The strength of this book lies in the demystification of of epistemological and ontological issues to a wide audience. Moreover, it is a stylistic breath of fresh air with comments and diagrams in the margins, chapter activities and readings and a general keywords glossary. In conclusion this book contributes in a stimulating way to the large literature on social philosophy and research methodology. It will be a useful guide and decoder, both historically and currently, to a wide social science audience across various learning levels' - BSA Network

`This is yet another outstanding product of The Open University system for producing teaching materials of the highest quality. Mark Smith has given us a book which makes the key ideas of philosophy of social science accessible to students, teachers and the community of social and cultural researchers, done in a way that is unequalled by any other text that I know. The book is a breathtaking combination of scholarship, comprehensive knowledge of the field and clear, reader-friendly explanation' - Clive Seale, Goldsmiths College

`This is an outstanding textbook, which I am sure will be widely used on courses worldwide at a number of different levels. It should also be of interest to specialists in the philosophy of social science, who will admire its outstanding presentation and lively illustrations' - William Outhwaite, University of Sussex

`A comprehensive and well-written overview of debates and issues in interdisciplinary social science research that will find a secure place in the undergraduate curriculum. It is the kind of book that can be recommended to students as a suitable basis for self-directed learning, as it is full of useful summaries, schemes and source materials' - John Scott, University of Essex

`Social Science in Question provides a very sophisticated examination of fundamental and highly disputed issues in the philosophy of the social sciences. It is probably the most comprehensive treatment of these issues presently available. Written in The Open University format, with a set of brief readings accompanying each chapter, the reader is taken on a journey from positivism to postmodernism. Mark Smith's book sets a new benchmark' - Norman Blaikie, Universiti Sains Malaysia

`Problems and issues in the philosophy of the social sciences are always fascinating, often complex and sometimes intractable. Postgraduates have to learn how to deal with them one way or another; discussion must enable, not disable. How to draw students into discussion, not put them off, that is the question. Invite them to read Mark Smith, that is the solution' - C G A Bryant, University of Salford

Mark J Smith is a Lecturer in Social Sciences at the Open University.