Monday, January 19, 2015

Albert Wohlstetter on social science, referring to Poincare on sociology.

I also had an uncomfortable suspicion that the devastating remark of the great French mathematician, Henri PoincarĂ©, about sociology ("The most methods, and the least results") might only too accurately describe the way one might dally in the approach to any social science in order to avoid actually going in and getting lost in a very dense jungle. Maps, brochures, the purchase of compasses, machetes, bush jackets and rakish tropical helmets can be used as a substitute for a hot and sweaty journey. In short, I sympathize with Johan Galtung's misgivings about theories about theory in a theory-poor field. (And with the feeling expressed by Burton Marshall since I first wrote these lines: reading the behaviorist literature in international relations seems a bit like sitting through an overture that never ends.[1] But I find that traditionalist critiques of behavioral essays on methodology, with rare exceptions like Marshall's own laconic contributions, have their own longeurs.)

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