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A Treatise on Social Theory

A Treatise on Social Theory

by W. G. Runciman


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In this first volume of a projected trilogy, the author argues that a methodology adequate to solve the long-standing debate over the status of the social as against the natural sciences can be constructed in terms of a fourhold distinction between the reportage, explanation, description and evaluation of human behaviour. The distinction rests on an analysis of the scope and nature of social theory which is not only original in conception but far-reaching in its implications for the assessment of the results of sociological, anthropological and historical research. In this volume, there are set out the separate and distinctive criteria by which the reports, explanations, descriptions and evaluations put forward by social scientists of rival theoretical schools require to be tested. These criteria will then be applied in Volume II to a substantive theory of social relations, social structure and social evolution, and in Volume III to a detailed analysis of the society of twentieth-century England. Each of the three volumes can be read independently of the others. Thus the trilogy will, when completed, be seen to form a coherent and unified whole.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521272513
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 03/03/1983
Series: Treatise on Social Theory Series , #1
Pages: 364
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.87(d)

Table of Contents

Preface; Part I. Introduction: The Nature of Social Theory: 1. Social theory as science; 2. The concept of understanding; 3. Analysis of actions; 4. Two kinds of value-judgement; 5. The problem of reflexivity; 6. Conclusion; Part II. Reportage in Social Theory: 7. The practice of primary understanding; 8. The choice of terms; 9. The bounds of reportage; 10. Sub-types and variants; 11. Definition and classification; 12. Inference within reportage; 13. Conclusion; Part III. Explanation in Social Theory: 14. Theory-making and secondary understanding; 15. The grounding of hypotheses; 16. Interpreting weak but adequate theories; 17. Varieties of causes; 18. Goals, functions and evolution; 19. Conclusion; Part IV. Description in Social Theory: 20. Tertiary understanding; 21. Authenticity and its opposites; 22. Putting descriptions across; 23. The uses of analogy and detail; 24. Conceptualization and narration; 25. The relation of description to evaluation; 26. How good can descriptions hope to be? 27. Conclusion; Part V. Evaluation in Social Theory: 28. The inescapability of evaluation; 29. Benevolence as a presupposition; 30. forms of misevaluation; 31. Appealing to the 'facts'; 32. Evaluation without pre-emption; 33. Theory-neutral uses of evaluative terms; 34. Conclusion; Index.

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