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Why should the sociologists who work on education be more able, or

work in a drastically different way, than those who work on crime? Why
should economists who study housing be different in kind or in quality from
those who work on tourism? In fairness, it could be that they just happen to
be significantly different, the sociologists and the economists, and their work
reflects this. The fact that it is hard to come up with a reason why it might
be so does not guarantee that it is not so. Yet it establishes a presumption.
In every subject there are fashions. These are driven by everything from
perceived need, to new ideas that open up promising areas of enquiry.
Talented people are drawn to fashionable topics, and so are less able
researchers. But the same can be said about topics that are a bit out of
fashion. It must be admitted that some researchers make a little corner for
themselves, taking advantage of the fact that few people have an interest in
their area. At the same time, there are many examples where first rate
researchers have also been drawn to areas that others ignore.
1 claim that any list of six areas of concern to all the social sciences,
which are also big topics for society, will generate much the same picture of
the five disciplines as comes from the topics 1 have selected. The balance
may shift a bit in one or two topics. The great advantage is in running across
a range of topics. It helps to average out and cut down on potential bias.
What makes a discipline is not the particular topic.
In the course of undertaking this investigation, a number of people have
suggested topics to me which 1 feel are inappropriate. They are not suitable
for this exercise for one of two possible reasons. Some are not substantive
topics. They are suggestions about how to go about examining substantive
topics. The other suggestions seem to me to be substantive, but typically
treated in a way that is either indifferent to, or ho stile to, social science. This
is a crunch issue in my thesis about social science. 1 brushed against it in
chapter three. A careful look is needed now. Consider the following six
topics as representative of a kind of material which is very popular, but does
not belong in an investigation of the scientific study of society.

Everyone would agree that if these six topics were put through the same
mill as the six 1 in fact did use, we would get very different results. The
results would be qualitatively different from the actual six, and from the
alternative six suggested above. For astart, there would be much more
sociology, and a lot less of the other five disciplines. In itself that need not
be an objection. In principle it might reflect the state of knowledge more
accurately. But that is just a possibility in principle. It is not the case. 1
contend that a different picture would emerge, not because the proportions of
scientific work in the different disciplines would be more accurately
reflected, but because sociology is more open to unscientific work than the
other social sciences. That does not mean that there is no genuine scientific
work in sociology. Ample examples are provided in the previous chapters.
The writers who promote one or more of this last list of topics tend to be
sympathetic to a11 of them. In seminars and other settings, 1 have observed a
variety of opinions from these writers as to how these kinds of topics relate
to socia! science. Some hold that socia! science is one thing, and they are
doing something else. Both are perfectly reasonable undertakings, so they
contend. The term 'social theory' was invented to suggest an alternative to
social science. However, it is almost impossible to extract from people of
this persuasion what this other thing is that they are doing. If their work
does not pursue the goals of science, what is it after? If it does have the
same goals, how are they advanced in a non-scientific way

Some enthusiasts for the list above, which is far from complete, are more
aggressive in the way they position themselves vis-a-vis social science.
Rather than a 'distinct from, but both reasonable' line, they hold that social
science is either impossible to do, or wicked and dangerous. They are not
doing it, and no one should try to do it. My ans wer to the assertion that
social science cannot be done is chapters five through ten. Social science is
being done. How weH and with what consequences are the subjects of this
and the next chapter.
A third position maintains that there is no difference of principle. They
are also doing social science, but perhaps at a different level of generality, or
from a different angle. This position cannot be justified. Ordinary social
science investigates matters ranging from the finest possible detail to the
highest level of generality. Claims of a yet higher level of generality mean
going outside the orbit of science. As to the 'different angle', there are
similarly two possibilities. That angle may fall within the orbit of science, in
which case it is not different from science, or it falls outside. A genuine
distinction requires that it fall outside. But why call it social science if it
bears no resemblance to science