The Flight from Reality in the Human Sciences

The Flight from Reality in the Human Sciences

by Ian Shapiro
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0691134014

ISBN-13: 9780691134017

Pub. Date: 11/19/2007

Publisher: Princeton University Press

In this captivating yet troubling book, Ian Shapiro offers a searing indictment of many influential practices in the social sciences and humanities today. Perhaps best known for his critique of rational choice theory, Shapiro expands his purview here. In discipline after discipline, he argues, scholars have fallen prey to inward-looking myopia that results

Overview

In this captivating yet troubling book, Ian Shapiro offers a searing indictment of many influential practices in the social sciences and humanities today. Perhaps best known for his critique of rational choice theory, Shapiro expands his purview here. In discipline after discipline, he argues, scholars have fallen prey to inward-looking myopia that results from—and perpetuates—a flight from reality.

In the method-driven academic culture we inhabit, argues Shapiro, researchers too often make display and refinement of their techniques the principal scholarly activity. The result is that they lose sight of the objects of their study. Pet theories and methodological blinders lead unwelcome facts to be ignored, sometimes not even perceived. The targets of Shapiro's critique include the law and economics movement, overzealous formal and statistical modeling, various reductive theories of human behavior, misguided conceptual analysis in political theory, and the Cambridge school of intellectual history.

As an alternative to all of these, Shapiro makes a compelling case for problem-driven social research, rooted in a realist philosophy of science and an antireductionist view of social explanation. In the lucid—if biting—prose for which Shapiro is renowned, he explains why this requires greater critical attention to how problems are specified than is usually undertaken. He illustrates what is at stake for the study of power, democracy, law, and ideology, as well as in normative debates over rights, justice, freedom, virtue, and community. Shapiro answers many critics of his views along the way, securing his position as one of the distinctive social and political theorists of our time.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691134017
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
11/19/2007
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

INTRODUCTION: Fear of Not Flying 1
CHAPTER ONE: The Difference That Realism Makes: Social Science and the Politics of Consent by Ian Shapiro and Alexander Wendt 19
CHAPTER TWO: Revisiting the Pathologies of Rational Choice by Donald Green and Ian Shapiro 51
CHAPTER THREE: Richard Posner's Praxis 100
CHAPTER FOUR: Gross Concepts in Political Argument 152
CHAPTER FIVE: Problems, Methods, and Theories in the Study of Politics: Or, What's Wrong with Political Science and What to Do about It 178
CHAPTER SIX: The Political Science Discipline: A Comment on David Laitin 204

Index 213

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