Eduardo de la Fuente writes in ‘The Australian’ that WH Auden might have got it right when he quipped that the goal of anyone seriously interested in human affairs should be to never commit a social science. Analysing all the different explanations that have been put forward for the recent riots in British cities, Eduardo de la Fuente argues that “vulgar sociologism…is much worse than no sociology at all”.
“Unfortunately, the temptation to commit a social science, in full public glare, is very high. Media commentary doesn’t hurt when an academic is applying for promotion. University bureaucrats have even invented performance management categories to address it – knowledge transfers and community service. It also doesn’t hurt when applying for research funds. Pseudo-relevance gets a tick when government agencies are dispensing research funding.
“The truth of the matter is, that unlike medical research and the fight against diseases, social science is acting in bad faith if it promotes the view that it can seriously enhance a society’s capacity to avoid or solve social problems. There is no social science equivalent to prevention or cure; and even diagnosis is a sketchy practice.”