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Friday, December 17, 2010

Social sciences

The social sciences are the fields of academic scholarship that explore aspects of human society. "Social science" is commonly used as an umbrella term to refer to a plurality of fields outside of the natural sciences. These include: anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, linguistics, political science, international studies, communication, and, in some contexts, psychology. Subjects such as international relations and social work are concerned primarily with application and do not constitute social sciences per se.

The term may be used, however, in the specific context of referring to the original science of society established in 19th century sociology. Émile Durkheim, Karl Marx and Max Weber are typically cited as the principal architects of modern social science by this definition. Positivist social scientists use methods resembling those of the natural sciences as tools for understanding society, and so define science in its stricter modern sense. Interpretivist social scientists, by contrast, may use social critique or symbolic interpretation rather than constructing empirically falsifiable theories, and thus treat science in its broader classical sense. In modern academic practice researchers are often eclectic, using multiple methodologies (for instance, by combining quantitative and qualitative techniques). The term "social research" has also acquired a degree of autonomy as practitioners from various disciplines share in its aims and methods.

The history of the social sciences begins in the roots of ancient philosophy. In Ancient history, there was no difference between mathematics and the study of history, poetry or politics. Significant contributions to the social sciences were made by Muslim scientists in the Islamic civilization during the Middle Ages. This unity of science as descriptive remains and deductive reasoning from axioms created a scientific framework.

The Age of Enlightenment saw a revolution within natural philosophy, changing the basic framework by which individuals understood what was "scientific". In some quarters, the accelerating trend of mathematical studies presumed a reality independent of the observer and worked by its own rules. Social sciences came forth from the moral philosophy of the time and was influenced by the Age of Revolutions, such as the Industrial revolution and the French revolution. The social sciences developed from the sciences (experimental and applied), or the systematic knowledge-bases or prescriptive practices, relating to the social improvement of a group of interacting entities.

The beginnings of the social sciences in the 18th century are reflected in various grand encyclopedia of Diderot, with articles from Rousseau and other pioneers. The growth of the social sciences is also reflected in other specialized encyclopedias. The modern period saw "social science" first used as a distinct conceptual field. Social science was influenced by positivism, focusing on knowledge based on actual positive sense experience and avoiding the negative; metaphysical speculation was avoided. Auguste Comte used the term "science social" to describe the field, taken from the ideas of Charles Fourier; Comte also referred to the field as social physics.

Following this period, there were five paths of development that sprang forth in the Social Sciences, influenced by Comte or other fields. One route that was taken was the rise of social research. Large statistical surveys were undertaken in various parts of the United States and Europe. Another route undertaken was initiated by Émile Durkheim, studying "social facts", and Vilfredo Pareto, opening metatheoretical ideas and individual theories. A third means developed, arising from the methodological dichotomy present, in which the social phenomena was identified with and understood; this was championed by figures such as Max Weber. The fourth route taken, based in economics, was developed and furthered economic knowledge as a hard science. The last path was the correlation of knowledge and social values; the antipositivism and verstehen sociology of Max Weber firmly demanded on this distinction. In this route, theory (description) and prescription were non-overlapping formal discussions of a subject.

Around the turn of the 20th century, Enlightenment philosophy was challenged in various quarters. After the use of classical theories since the end of the scientific revolution, various fields substituted mathematics studies for experimental studies and examining equations to build a theoretical structure. The development of social science subfields became very quantitative in methodology. Conversely, the interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary nature of scientific inquiry into human behavior and social and environmental factors affecting it made many of the natural sciences interested in some aspects of social science methodology.[9] Examples of boundary blurring include emerging disciplines like social research of medicine, sociobiology, neuropsychology, bioeconomics and the history and sociology of science. Increasingly, quantitative research and qualitative methods are being integrated in the study of human action and its implications and consequences. In the first half of the 20th century, statistics became a free-standing discipline of applied mathematics. Statistical methods were used confidently.

In the contemporary period, Karl Popper and Talcott Parsons influenced the furtherance of the social sciences. Researchers continues to search for a unified consensus on what methodology might have the power and refinement to connect a proposed "grand theory" with the various midrange theories which, with considerable success, continue to provide usable frameworks for massive, growing data banks; for more, see consilience. At present though, the various realms of social science progress in a myriad of ways, increasing the overall knowledge of society. The social sciences will for the foreseeable future be composed of different zones in the research of, and sometime distinct in approach toward, the field.

The term "social science" may refer either to the specific sciences of society established by thinkers such as Comte, Durkheim, Marx, and Weber, or more generally to all disciplines outside of noble science and arts. By the late 19th century, the academic social sciences were constituted of five fields: jurisprudence and amendment of the law, education, health, economy and trade, and art



The Social Science disciplines are branches of knowledge which are taught and researched at the college or university level. Social Science disciplines are defined and recognized by the academic journals in which research is published, and the learned Social Science societies and academic departments or faculties to which their practitioners belong. Social Science fields of study usually have several sub-disciplines or branches, and the distinguishing lines between these are often both arbitrary and ambiguous.

Anthropology

Anthropology is the holistic "science of man". The discipline deals with the integration of different aspects of the Social Sciences, Humanities, and Human Biology. In the twentieth century, academic disciplines have often been institutionally divided into three broad domains. The natural sciences seek to derive general laws through reproducible and verifiable experiments. The humanities generally study local traditions, through their history, literature, music, and arts, with an emphasis on understanding particular individuals, events, or eras. The social sciences have generally attempted to develop scientific methods to understand social phenomena in a generalizable way, though usually with methods distinct from those of the natural sciences.

The anthropological social sciences often develop statistical descriptions rather than the general laws derived in physics or chemistry, or they may explain individual cases through more general principles, as in many fields of psychology. Anthropology (like some fields of history) does not easily fit into one of these categories, and different branches of anthropology draw on one or more of these domains. It includes Archaeology, Prehistory, Physical or Biological Anthropology, Anthropological Linguistics, Social and Cultural Anthropology, Ethnology and Ethnography. It is an area that is offered at most undergraduate institutions. The word anthropos (άνθρωπος) is from the Greek for "human being" or "person." Eric Wolf described sociocultural anthropology as "the most scientific of the humanities, and the most humanistic of the sciences."

The goal of anthropology is to provide a holistic account of humans and human nature. Since anthropology arose as a science in Western societies that were complex and industrial, a major trend within anthropology has been a methodological drive to study peoples in societies with more simple social organization, sometimes called "primitive" in anthropological literature, but without any connotation of "inferior." Today, most anthropologists use terms such as "less complex" societies or refer to specific modes of subsistence or production, such as "hunter-gatherer" or "forager" or "simple farmer" to refer to humans living in non-industrial, non-Western cultures, such people or folk (ethnos) remaining of great interest within anthropology.

The quest for holism leads most anthropologists to study a particular folk or people in detail, using biogenetic, archaeological, and linguistic data alongside direct observation of contemporary customs. In the 1990s and 2000s, calls for clarification of what constitutes a culture, of how an observer knows where his or her own culture ends and another begins, and other crucial topics in writing anthropology were heard. It is possible to view all human cultures as part of one large, evolving global culture. These dynamic relationships, between what can be observed on the ground, as opposed to what can be observed by compiling many local observations remain fundamental in any kind of anthropology, whether cultural, biological, linguistic or archaeological.

Economics

Economics is a social science that seeks to analyze and describe the production, distribution, and consumption of wealth. The word "economics" is from the Greek οκος [oikos], "family, household, estate," and νόμος [nomos], "custom, law," and hence means "household management" or "management of the state." An economist is a person using economic concepts and data in the course of employment, or someone who has earned a university degree in the subject. The classic brief definition of economics, set out by Lionel Robbins in 1932, is "the science which studies human behavior as a relation between scarce means having alternative uses." Without scarcity and alternative uses, there is no economic problem. Briefer yet is "the study of how people seek to satisfy needs and wants" and "the study of the financial aspects of human behaviour."

Economics has two broad branches: microeconomics, where the unit of analysis is the individual agent, such as a household or firm, and macroeconomics, where the unit of analysis is an economy as a whole. Another division of the subject distinguishes positive economics, which seeks to predict and explain economic phenomena, from normative economics, which orders choices and actions by some criterion; such orderings necessarily involve subjective value judgments. Since the early part of the 20th century, economics has focused largely on measurable quantities, employing both theoretical models and empirical analysis. Quantitative models, however, can be traced as far back as the physiocratic school. Economic reasoning has been increasingly applied in recent decades to other social situations such as politics, law, psychology, history, religion, marriage and family life, and other social interactions. This paradigm crucially assumes (1) that resources are scarce because they are not sufficient to satisfy all wants, and (2) that "economic value" is willingness to pay as revealed for instance by market (arms' length) transactions. Rival heterodox schools of thought, such as institutional economics, green economics, Marxist economics, and economic sociology, make other grounding assumptions. For example, Marxist economics assumes that economics primarily deals with the exchange of value, and that labor (human effort) is the source of all value.

The expanding domain of economics in the social sciences has been described as economic imperialism.

Education

Education encompasses teaching and learning specific skills, and also something less tangible but more profound: the imparting of knowledge, positive judgement and well-developed wisdom. Education has as one of its fundamental aspects the imparting of culture from generation to generation (see socialization). To educate means 'to draw out', from the Latin educare, or to facilitate the realization of an individual's potential and talents. It is an application of pedagogy, a body of theoretical and applied research relating to teaching and learning and draws on many disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, sociology and anthropology.

The education of an individual human begins at birth and continues throughout life. (Some believe that education begins even before birth, as evidenced by some parents' playing music or reading to the baby in the womb in the hope it will influence the child's development.) For some, the struggles and triumphs of daily life provide far more instruction than does formal schooling (thus Mark Twain's admonition to "never let school interfere with your education"). Family members may have a profound educational effect — often more profound than they realize — though family teaching may function very informally.

Geography

Geography as a discipline can be split broadly into two main sub fields: human geography and physical geography. The former focuses largely on the built environment and how space is created, viewed and managed by humans as well as the influence humans have on the space they occupy. The latter examines the natural environment and how the climate, vegetation & life, soil, water and landforms are produced and interact. As a result of the two subfields using different approaches a third field has emerged, which is environmental geography. Environmental geography combines physical and human geography and looks at the interactions between the environment and humans.

Geographers attempt to understand the earth in terms of physical and spatial relationships. The first geographers focused on the science of mapmaking and finding ways to precisely project the surface of the earth. In this sense, geography bridges some gaps between the natural sciences and social sciences. Historical geography is often taught in a college in a unified Department of Geography.

Modern geography is an all-encompassing discipline, closely related to GISc, that seeks to understand humanity and its natural environment. The fields of Urban Planning, Regional Science, and Planetology are closely related to geography. Practitioners of geography use many technologies and methods to collect data such as GIS, remote sensing, aerial photography, statistics, and global positioning systems (GPS).

The field of geography is generally split into two distinct branches: physical and human. Physical geography examines phenomena related to climate, oceans, soils, and the measurement of earth. Human geography focuses on fields as diverse as Cultural geography, transportation, health, military operations, and cities. Other branches of geography include Social geography, regional geography, geomatics, and environmental geography.

History

History is the continuous, systematic narrative and research into past human events as interpreted through historiographical paradigms or theories, such as the Turner Thesis about the American frontier.

History has a base in both the social sciences and the humanities. In the United States the National Endowment for the Humanities includes history in its definition of a Humanities (as it does for applied Linguistics). However the National Research Council classifies History as a Social science. The historical method comprises the techniques and guidelines by which historians use primary sources and other evidence to research and then to write history.

The Social Science History Association, formed in 1976, brings together scholars from numerous disciplines interested in social history.

Law

Law in common parlance, means a rule which (unlike a rule of ethics) is capable of enforcement through institutions. The study of law crosses the boundaries between the social sciences and humanities, depending on one's view of research into its objectives and effects. Law is not always enforceable, especially in the international relations context. It has been defined as a "system of rules",as an "interpretive concept" to achieve justice, as an "authority" to mediate people's interests, and even as "the command of a sovereign, backed by the threat of a sanction". However one likes to think of law, it is a completely central social institution. Legal policy incorporates the practical manifestation of thinking from almost every social sciences and humanity. Laws are politics, because politicians create them. Law is philosophy, because moral and ethical persuasions shape their ideas. Law tells many of history's stories, because statutes, case law and codifications build up over time. And law is economics, because any rule about contract, tort, property law, labour law, company law and many more can have long lasting effects on the distribution of wealth. The noun law derives from the late Old English lagu, meaning something laid down or fixed and the adjective legal comes from the Latin word lex.

Linguistics

Ferdinand de Saussure, recognized as the father of modern linguistics

Linguistics investigates the cognitive and social aspects of human language. The field is divided into areas that focus on aspects of the linguistic signal, such as syntax (the study of the rules that govern the structure of sentences), semantics (the study of meaning), morphology (the study of the structure of words), phonetics (the study of speech sounds) and phonology (the study of the abstract sound system of a particular language); however, work in areas like evolutionary linguistics (the study of the origins and evolution of language) and psycholinguistics (the study of psychological factors in human language) cut across these divisions.

The overwhelming majority of modern research in linguistics takes a predominantly synchronic perspective (focusing on language at a particular point in time), and a great deal of it—partly owing to the influence of Noam Chomsky—aims at formulating theories of the cognitive processing of language. However, language does not exist in a vacuum, or only in the brain, and approaches like contact linguistics, creole studies, discourse analysis, social interactional linguistics, and sociolinguistics explore language in its social context. Sociolinguistics often makes use of traditional quantitative analysis and statistics in investigating the frequency of features, while some disciplines, like contact linguistics, focus on qualitative analysis. While certain areas of linguistics can thus be understood as clearly falling within the social sciences, other areas, like acoustic phonetics and neurolinguistics, draw on the natural sciences. Linguistics draws only secondarily on the humanities, which played a rather greater role in linguistic inquiry in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Ferdinand Saussure is considered the father of modern linguistics.

Political science

Aristotle asserted that man is a political animal in his Politics

Political science is an academic and research discipline that deals with the theory and practice of politics and the description and analysis of political systems and political behaviour. Fields and subfields of political science include positive political economy, political theory and philosophy, civics and comparative politics, theory of direct democracy, apolitical governance, participatory direct democracy, national systems, cross-national political analysis, political development, international relations, foreign policy, international law, politics, public administration, administrative behavior, public law, judicial behavior, and public policy. Political science also studies power in international relations and the theory of Great powers and Superpowers.

Political science is that branch of one, which deals with the study of politics, analysis of its system and behaviour

Political science is methodologically diverse. Although recent years have witnessed an upsurge in the use of the scientific method. That is the proliferation of formal-deductive model building and quantitative hypothesis testing. Approaches to the discipline include rational choice, classical political philosophy, interpretivism, structuralism, and behavioralism, realism, pluralism, and institutionalism. Political science, as one of the social sciences, uses methods and techniques that relate to the kinds of inquiries sought: primary sources such as historical documents and official records, secondary sources such as scholarly journal articles, survey research, statistical analysis/econometrics, case studies, and model building. Herbert Baxter Adams is credited with coining the phrase "political science" while teaching history at Johns Hopkins University.

Public administration

One of the main branches of political science, public administration can be broadly described as the development, implementation and study of branches of government policy. The pursuit of the public good by enhancing civil society and social justice is the ultimate goal of the field. Though public administration has historically referred to as government management, it increasingly encompasses non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that also operate with a similar, primary dedication to the betterment of humanity.

Differentiating public administration from business administration, a closely related field, has become a popular method for defining the discipline. First, the goals of public administration are more closely related to those often cited as goals of the American founders and democratic people in general. That is, public employees work to improve equality, justice, security, efficiency, effectiveness, and, at times, for profit. These values help to both differentiate the field from business administration, primarily concerned with profit, and define the discipline. Second, public administration is a relatively new, multidisciplinary field. Woodrow Wilson's The Study of Administration is frequently cited as the seminal work. Dr. Wilson advocated a more professional operation of public officials' daily activities. Further, the future president identified the necessity in the United States of a separation between party politics and good bureaucracy, which has also been a lasting theme.

The multidisciplinary nature of public administration is related to a third defining feature: administrative duties. Public administrators work in public agencies, at all levels of government, and perform a wide range of tasks. Public administrators collect and analyze data (statistics), monitor fiscal operations (budgets, accounts, and cash flow), organize large events and meetings, draft legislation, develop policy, and frequently execute legally mandated, government activities. Regarding this final facet, public administrators find themselves serving as parole officers, secretaries, note takers, paperwork processors, records keepers, notaries of the public, cashiers, and managers. Indeed, the discipline couples well with many vocational fields such as information technology, finance, law, and engineering. When it comes to the delivery and evaluation of public services, a public administrator is undoubtedly involved.

Psychology

Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt was the founder of experimental psychology

Psychology is an academic and applied field involving the study of behavior and mental processes. Psychology also refers to the application of such knowledge to various spheres of human activity, including problems of individuals' daily lives and the treatment of mental illness.

Psychology differs from anthropology, economics, political science, and sociology in seeking to capture explanatory generalizations about the mental function and overt behaviour of individuals, while the other disciplines focus on creating descriptive generalizations about the functioning of social groups or situation-specific human behavior. In practice, however, there is quite a lot of cross-fertilization that takes place among the various fields. Psychology differs from biology and neuroscience in that it is primarily concerned with the interaction of mental processes and behavior, and of the overall processes of a system, and not simply the biological or neural processes themselves, though the subfield of neuropsychology combines the study of the actual neural processes with the study of the mental effects they have subjectively produced. Many people associate Psychology with Clinical Psychology which focuses on assessment and treatment of problems in living and psychopathology. In reality, Psychology has myriad specialties including: Social Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Mathematical psychology, Neuropsychology, and Quantitative Analysis of Behaviour to name only a few. The word psychology comes from the ancient Greek ψυχή, psyche ("soul", "mind") and logy, study).

Psychology is a very broad science that is rarely tackled as a whole, major block. Although some subfields encompass a natural science base and a social science application, others can be clearly distinguished as having little to do with the social sciences or having a lot to do with the social sciences. For example, biological psychology is considered a natural science with a social scientific application (as is clinical medicine), social and occupational psychology are, generally speaking, purely social sciences, whereas neuropsychology is a natural science that lacks application out of the scientific tradition entirely. In British universities, emphasis on what tenet of psychology a student has studied and/or concentrated is communicated through the degree conferred: B.Psy. indicates a balance between natural and social sciences, B.Sc. indicates a strong (or entire) scientific concentration, whereas a B.A. underlines a majority of social science credits.

Sociology

Émile Durkheim is considered one of the founding fathers of sociology.

Sociology is the scientific or systematic study of society and human social action. The meaning of the word comes from the suffix "-ology" which means "study of," derived from Greek, and the stem "soci-" which is from the Latin word socius, meaning "companion", or society in general.

Sociology was originally established by Auguste Comte (1798–1857) in 1838.[30] Comte endeavoured to unify history, psychology and economics through the scientific understanding of the social realm. He proposed that social ills could be remedied through sociological positivism, an epistemological approach outlined in The Course in Positive Philosophy [1830–1842] and A General View of Positivism (1844). Though Comte is generally regarded as the "Father of Sociology", the discipline was formally established by another French thinker, Émile Durkheim (1858–1917), who developed positivism as a foundation to practical social research. Durkheim set up the first European department of sociology at the University of Bordeaux in 1895, publishing his Rules of the Sociological Method. In 1896, he established the journal L'Année Sociologique. Durkheim's seminal monograph, Suicide (1897), a case study of suicide rates amongst Catholic and Protestant populations, distinguished sociological analysis from psychology or philosophy.

Karl Marx rejected Comtean positivism but nevertheless aimed to establish a science of society based on historical materialism, becoming recognised as a founding figure of sociology posthumously as the term gained broader meaning. At the turn of the 20th century, the first wave of German sociologists, including Max Weber and Georg Simmel, developed sociological antipositivism. The field may be broadly recognised as an amalgam of three modes of social scientific thought in particular: Durkheimian positivism and structural functionalism; Marxist historical materialism and conflict theory; Weberian antipositivism and verstehen analysis. American sociology broadly arose on a separate trajectory, with little Marxist influence, an emphasis on rigorous scientific methodology, and a closer association with pragmatism and social psychology. In the 1920s, the Chicago school developed symbolic interactionism. Meanwhile in the 1930s, the Frankfurt School pioneered the idea of critical theory, an interdisciplinary form of Marxist sociology drawing upon thinkers as diverse as Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche. Critical theory would take on something of a life of its own after World War II, influencing literary criticism and the Birmingham School establishment of cultural studies.

Sociology evolved as an academic response to the challenges of modernity, such as industrialization, urbanization, secularization, and a perceived process of enveloping rationalization. Because sociology is such a broad discipline, it can be difficult to define, even for professional sociologists. The field generally concerns the social rules and processes that bind and separate people not only as individuals, but as members of associations, groups, communities and institutions, and includes the examination of the organization and development of human social life. The sociological field of interest ranges from the analysis of short contacts between anonymous individuals on the street to the study of global social processes. In the terms of sociologists Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, social scientists seek an understanding of the Social Construction of Reality. Most sociologists work in one or more subfields. One useful way to describe the discipline is as a cluster of sub-fields that examine different dimensions of society. For example, social stratification studies inequality and class structure; demography studies changes in a population size or type; criminology examines criminal behavior and deviance; and political sociology studies the interaction between society and state.

Since its inception, sociological epistemologies, methods, and frames of enquiry, have significantly expanded and diverged. Sociologists use a diversity of research methods, drawing upon either empirical techniques or critical theory. Common modern methods include case studies, historical research, interviewing, participant observation, social network analysis, survey research, statistical analysis, and model building, among other approaches. Since the late 1970s, many sociologists have tried to make the discipline useful for non-academic purposes. The results of sociological research aid educators, lawmakers, administrators, developers, and others interested in resolving social problems and formulating public policy, through subdisciplinary areas such as evaluation research, methodological assessment, and public sociology. New sociological sub-fields continue to appear - such as community studies, computational sociology, environmental sociology, network analysis, actor-network theory and a growing list, many of which are cross-disciplinary in nature.

Lecture notes prepared by Biju P R,Assistant Professor in Political Science,Govt Brennen College Thalassery

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