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Postman Challenges Those Who View Sociology as a Science
In the sociology course
you’re taking, one problem you will encounter is understanding how sociologists
describe what they do. As social scientists, sociologists like Andersen claim
to develop legitimate forms of social research for the purpose of discovering
principles that govern human behavior (processes). And they make other claims
on behalf of the method they employ in that effort. They claim, in short, to be
“doing science”, and that claim has been generally accepted by
universities and colleges in their design of curricula students must take to
graduate. So although sociology has its detractors, it’s proponents advance
many claims as to its importance in the larger scheme of science as western
civilization has come to understand it.
In his short essay,
Postman appears to be challenging the view that social scientists have of
themselves. He states that he “rejects the implication of the phrase
‘social science'”, that [they] do not “do science”. Rather they
are, not unlike “moral theologians”, doing something like “storytelling”.
If he is serious, Postman must then address what it is that social scientists
point to when they insist that they are in fact doing science, such as social
research, for example. What exactly is the case that he makes against calling
social science a science, and why is he making it? What examples does he use to
support his account of the social sciences? If social science is to be
understood as “story-telling”, what exactly is the point of telling
stories, or is that label supposed to be a criticism of storytelling? If so, is
he being critical of all storytelling, or just the sociological way of doing
so? What’s he up to anyway?