Tension Points in Real Social Science: A Response
British Journal of Sociology, vol. 64, No. 4, pp. 758–762
4 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2013 Last revised: 20 Jan 2014
Date Written: December 1, 2013
Social science today often contents itself with trying to explain particular events in terms of general models without understanding those events as experienced by the people being studied and without providing ﬁndings that might help people address the problems they are experiencing. It can be argued that the recent development of social science has focused too much on its own ‘evidence-inference methodological core’ and has lost sight of what is being studied, who is being studied, and how the results of research can challenge popular understanding, misconceptions, and power relations. At the most basic level, our edited volume Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis (Flyvbjerg, Landman and Schram 2012) is designed to provide examples of research that is situated in real communities, grows out of the concerns of people in those communities and is conducted in ways that can help those people address those concerns. These examples demonstrate that what we are calling ‘phronetic social science’ (as originally coined by Bent Flyvbjerg) offers a meaningful approach for making social science useful and relevant to real people experiencing real problems. Phronetic social science calls for social scientists foregoing the attempt to build generic models of social behaviour and instead situate their work in ongoing political struggles as they occur in speciﬁc contexts.
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