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The Origins of American Social Science…
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The Origins of American Social Science (Ideas in Context) (origineel 1991; editie 1990)

door Dorothy Ross

Reeksen: Ideas in Context (19)

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Focusing on the disciplines of economics, sociology, political science, and history, this book examines how American social science came to model itself on natural science and liberal politics. Professor Ross argues that American social science receives its distinctive stamp from the ideology of American exceptionalism, the idea that America occupies an exceptional place in history, based on her republican government and wide economic opportunity. Professor Ross shows how each of the social science disciplines, while developing their inherited intellectual traditions, responded to change in historical consciousness, political needs, professional structures, and the conceptions of science available to them. This is a comprehensive book, which looks broadly at American social science in its historical context and to demonstrate the central importance of the national ideology of American exceptionalism to the development of the social sciences and to American social thought generally.… (meer)
Lid:AlkerVirtualLibrary
Titel:The Origins of American Social Science (Ideas in Context)
Auteurs:Dorothy Ross
Info:Cambridge University Press (1990), Hardcover, 532 pages
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The Origins of American Social Science door Dorothy Ross (1991)

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In The Origins of American Social Science, Dorothy Ross argues, “American social science owes its distinctive character to its involvement with the national ideology of American exceptionalism, the idea that America occupies an exceptional place in history, based on her republican government and economic opportunity. Both this national self-conception and the social sciences themselves emerged from the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century effort to understand the character and fate of modern society” (pg. xiv). She further argues, “The consensual framework of American politics that developed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century formed out of the intersection of Protestant, republican, and liberal ideas around the idea of America” (pg. xvi-xvii). Ross uses the discourse of intellectual history to examine the cultural milieu in which scientists worked.
Ross writes, “The social scientists were imbued at their inception with a new understanding of history and with high expectations of modernity. They approved the historical supports of modern society – commercial development, science, and in most cases, the representative state. Drawing on the Enlightenment understanding of civilization developed in Scotland and France, they defined modernity as diversification, in which the rude and simple structures of primitive and feudal life gave way to complexity, multiplying comforts, and multiplying values” (pg. 7). She continues, “Despite the existence of radical and conservative versions of social science, the traditions that established the strongest institutional base before the Civil War, and the foundation upon which postwar disciplines developed, came from cultural, political, and business elites who occupied the center and right of the liberal-republican consensus” (pg. 48-49). In this way, “To the educated American gentry, science began to appear not only as the most authoritative modern knowledge, but as a courageous source of free inquiry, as against an authoritarian, outmoded religion, and their anticlericalism increased as the American churches grew more defensive” (pg. 55).
Ross writes, “The field of economics, and behind it, sociology, formed the front line of battle on the social question, attracting the more liberal and radically inclined of the younger social scientists. For the most part, however, radicalism did not enter economics and sociology through recruitment into its ranks of new social types” (pg. 101). She continues, “Sociology, the last developed of the social sciences, gained only a toehold in the universities in the 1880s. The positivist bias of William Graham Sumner’s and Lester Frank Ward’s evolutionary theories hampered their inclusion in institutions still freeing themselves from clerical control” (pg. 122). Ross concludes, “Living in the new industrial world, American sociologists, like those in Europe, also began to reshape history into a succession of two ideal-typical stages, the community-centered traditional society and the modern, differentiated, industrial society…In the United States it overlay a historical consciousness already thinned by attachment to exceptionalist metaphors. The two-stage model, with the present located at the point of transition, fit perfectly the historical sense of fundamental transformation that grew out of the Gilded Age crisis” (pg. 254).
Of the late Progressive cohort of social scientists, Ross writes, “For many in this cohort, including the social democrats, the ongoing social question was joined to the social and cultural issues that had emerged in the Progressive Era. In the liberal exceptionalist context, in which classes were understood as groups, it was easy for many social scientists to subsume the older exceptionalist problem of equality under the liberal problem of pluralist order” (pg. 304). She argues that this groups’ “new concepts and methods shaped that historical change as deeply as they reflected it. This cohort worked in a society in which the structural power of capitalism was heavily felt and visibly present, in which the reinforcement of ethnicity and class was as palpable as its divergence, in which the rapidity of historical change opened up a space for dialogue with the past, not just abandonment of it. Their choices were the choices of liberal American exceptionalists, drawn toward the inclination of their national, disciplinary, and professional discourses” (pg. 387). Ross concludes, “American social science has consistently constructed models of the world that embody the values and follow the logic of the national ideology of American exceptionalism” (pg. 471). ( )
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Focusing on the disciplines of economics, sociology, political science, and history, this book examines how American social science came to model itself on natural science and liberal politics. Professor Ross argues that American social science receives its distinctive stamp from the ideology of American exceptionalism, the idea that America occupies an exceptional place in history, based on her republican government and wide economic opportunity. Professor Ross shows how each of the social science disciplines, while developing their inherited intellectual traditions, responded to change in historical consciousness, political needs, professional structures, and the conceptions of science available to them. This is a comprehensive book, which looks broadly at American social science in its historical context and to demonstrate the central importance of the national ideology of American exceptionalism to the development of the social sciences and to American social thought generally.

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