This concise and comprehensive volume provides an accessible overview of the main debates on the sociology and philosophy of the social sciences from the contemporary perspective of radical reflexivity and democratization. From its origins in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when a new system of knowledge was created around the idea of modernity, the author traces the transformation of modern conceptions of social science as a cognitive system and as an institution. Focusing on the rise of positivism in the age of the Enlightenment to its final collapse in the twentieth century, Delanty argues how social science is today recovering its role as the critical voice of modernity and examines the positivist dispute from post-empiricist perspectives. It is argued that the conception of social science emerging today is one that involves a synthesis of radical constructivism and critical realism. The crucial challenge facing social science is a question of its public role: growing reflexivity in society has implications for the social production of knowledge and is bringing into question the separation of expert systems from other forms of knowledge. This is one of the most ambitious and wide-ranging texts in recent years on debates about the contemporary situation of social science. It will be of strong interest to undergraduates and postgraduates in the social sciences as well as to professional researchers working in the areas of the philosophy of social science, the sociology of science and knowledge, and social and political theory.
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Gerard Delanty is Senior Lecturer in Sociology in the University of Liverpool and author of Inventing Europe: Idea, Identity, Reality (Macmillan, 1995) and Conceptions of Modernity (Polity Press, 1998). He is editor of the newly established Sage journal European Journal of Social Theory.Review:
"Delanty has written a fluent and succinct overview of social theory, including informed commentary and critique...The book presents some very good potted accounts of the various theoretical positions in the social sciences and sets out issues that are not yet resolved. It should be added to the reading lists of theory and methodology courses in the social sciences." - The Times Higher
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