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Race – an outdated concept? January 29, 2010

Posted by Sverre in : Human rights, language , add a comment

Great controversy has apparently arisen in the US over the inclusion of the word “negro” in a national census. Once again I am reminded of the different reality I live in. Where I come from, Norway, race isn’t a concept we’re familiar with neither in social science nor politics. Nationality (including second and third generation immigrants), religion and cultural heritage are certainly issues, but genetic “race” alone is an alien concept. We do have some dark blotches on our record, most notably treatment of Jews before WWII and the Rom and indigenous Sami peoples until far too recent years. In present day Norway, I perceive the concept of race as one that belongs to the extreme right fringe of society.

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Podcast review: Thinking allowed April 14, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Reviews , 2comments

podcastIn my series of reviews of political science podcasts, I’ve arrived at the BBC Channel 4 program “Thinking Allowed”, that is podcasted through the BBC web pages.

This radio program about research in social science really interested me. It features interesting topics and interviews with leading social scientists and thinkers. Political science seems to have a pretty good presence among them. I’ve listened to the broadcasts for the past three weeks – of particular interest in those were a discussion with Michail Rykin on Russian democracy and the rehabilitation of Stalin, with Anthony Giddens on the politics of climate change and with Kevin Doogan on “New Capitalism”. A pretty impressive lineup.

As a program from perhaps the most established public broacasting institution in the world, we expect the technical quality and the host to be of top notch quality, and they are. There isn’t anything to put my finger on there. The host, Laurie Taylor, isn’t a scientist himself, but he seems to have enough insight paired with being a good radio host. It all makes for interesting radio. (more…)

Anti-naturalism – the truth about social science? March 20, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Methods in political science , 2comments

Discussing the philosophy of science of the social sciences is always interesting, at least for those of us that are academically nerdy enough. LFC, the author of Howl at Pluto has highlighted the article “Concept Formation in Political Science: An Anti-Naturalist Critique of Qualitative Methodology” by Mark Bevir and Asaf Kedar in which the authors go against the naturalist focus on causal relationships in the social sciences. LFC’s analysis of their work is summed up in the following paragraph:

This all points to a more basic issue: Is there only one correct, philosophically defensible way to do social science? Some scholars believe that only an approach aimed at causal explanation is valid. B&K take the opposite side but adhere to an equivalent exclusiveness. The implication of their position seems quite clear: only one kind of social science will pass muster.

If I interpret LFC correctly, we both agree that both major philosophical ideas of social science has their merit and have contributed to social science as a whole. His post made me interested in reading the entire piece, which in a way surprised me and made me think even if I for the most part disagree with it. (more…)