Social Sciences are key to the understanding of many societal issues such as the balance between economic growth and impact on the environment. The social sciences examine what it means to be a social being, ranging from the minutiae of human behaviour and brain functions, to large scale social movements, demographics, economics and politics, and links to both the natural world and arts & humanities.
Social sciences deal with human behaviour in its social and cultural aspects.
C. Wright Mills in his classic The Sociological Imagination claimed that sociology, and by extension all social sciences, is in the end a ‘craft’. Numerous others in the Social Sciences and the Humanities also claim that their profession is a craft. (E.g Bloch). Also in Philosophy of Science exist views that all sciences are crafts. Cf. Godel, Popper. This is linked to the idea that social sciences is a literature, espoused most recently by Richard Sennett in 'How I write: Sociology as Literature' where he says all texts that aspire to enter as Hannah Arendt conceived it, the realm of shared collective intelligence, need to have certain qualities: an authoritative and interpretative voice, a narrative of cause and effect stories, arousal and curiosity through 'cognitive dissonance' and puzzles, and lastly an ability to show convincing generalisations through what CS Peirce calls 'radical induction' where personal experiences resonate symbolically on a larger scale. (See Literature Studies).
Social Sciences are distinguished from Natural Science in the way they take into account meaning, i.e. the fact that the conscious subject constructs meaning to its actions. It is distinguished from the humanities in that it allows for collective action through social units, e.g. nation states, transcending the mortality and fatality of individuals, it allows for methodology. Natural Sciences claim however that consciousness is reducible to natural study and explanation, whereas humanists want to insist on the inescapability of fate.
Social Sciences insistence on the human; in welfare, redistribution, and in extolling the virtues of medicine constitutes an attempt at countering evolution, selection and the laws of nature. However, the decline in faith in societal solutions, and the decline in the human as an exclusive category (environmentalism and animal welfare, but also technology, cyborgs), constitute renewed attacks on the distinctiveness of Social Sciences.
Divisions & Traditions
- Philosophy of Social Sciences
- Social Psychology,
- Social Anthropology, Anthropological Theory
- Sociology, Sociological Theory (Nexus Philosophy of Social Sciences, Philosophy of Science, Lingustics, Epistemology.
- Political Science, Political Theory, Political Philosophy, (International Relations)
- Social Geography and Economic Geography
- Education Studies those areas that deal with the social contexts of learning and the relation of the school to the social order.
- History is regarded by many as a social science, and certain areas of historical study are almost indistinguishable from work done in the social sciences. Most historians, however, consider history as one of the humanities.
- The relation of Social Sciences to society, government and power.
- Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences http://fbc.binghamton.edu/gulb.htm#gulbdesc
- Amandla Blog http://blogs.uct.ac.za/blog/amandla Covers new quality web resources, mostly in politics and history ;
- Le Portique http://leportique.revues.org Revue française qui traite des grandes questions philosophiques et sociale, bimestriel until 2008
- Becker Posner Blog http://uchicagolaw.typepad.com/beckerposner/ ; http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/ Impressive account of financial/economical social issues ;
- Fora TV http://fora.tv/ Social science debates and discussions ;
- The Immanent Frame http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/ Secularism, Religion and the Public Sphere. Forum for ongoing exchanges in the Social Sciences and Humanities.
- IPSA conference papers on political science http://paperroom.ipsa.org/
- The Social Research Association http://www.the-sra.org.uk/ The SRA provides a forum for people working in a diverse range of settings and in different subject specialities, to form wider contacts, exchange views and information, and pursue issues of common concern.
- British Academy http://www.britac.ac.uk/ Premier institution in UK for the humanities and social sciences with pod casts http://www.britac.ac.uk/medialibrary/
- American Academy of Political and Social Science http://blog.aapss.org/ ;
- Social Science Research Council http://www.ssrc.org/
- Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Soziologie http://www.soziologie.de/
- Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen http://www.kulturwissenschaften.de/