The State of Social Sciences

Technology driven disciplines bypass standard scientific methodology

The state of social sciences is not as unrevered as is perceived; to be precise for unstated methodological precision and investigative rigour in theories developed in most of the bevahioural sciences over the period of time.

The social sciences emerging from eighteenth century with classic ‘Wealth of Nations’ by Adam Smith, 1776 aiming at to theorize the human behavior interface with economic interests and growing trade between the nations. The post Industrial Revolution from 1760 and maturing in 1840 changed the outlook of not only in North America and European societies but also changed the perceptions of societies across the globe.

The societies, over time and space, have undergone a perceptible change in perceptions, values, behaviour and class interests, thereby paving the way for social scientists to investigate new relationships in new phenomena. Some of the branches of social sciences, for example, Economics, known as King of social sciences, has examined the theories having ruled until the Great Depression of Thirties when the Classical Theories of Economic completely and miserably failed the survival of ‘Laissez faire’ rule and brought down the world economies to a grinding halt.

The New Economics is based on the establishment of new relationships in a given phenomena in societies, creating a new knowledge on new relationships of human actions confronting the societies and social groups, embodying rigorous precision-based scientific methodologies,

eventually institutionalizing the world economic order, currently in place, dictated by IBRD and IMF. Among the disciplines of social science, Economics has extensively relied on sophisticated tools and techniques drawn from Mathematics and Physics to ensure precision in testing theories against the body observed data to establish new relationships of phenomena thereby augment the theoretical foundations of knowledge amenable to confront the observed data to reestablish, reject or modify the existing theory. Therefore, it has widely made use of Differential Equations, Tensors Calculus, Mathematical Logic, Linear and Dynamic Programming, etc so much so it ceases to be reckoned with as branch of social sciences and is affiliated to science faculty in Universities of USA, Europe and many developing nations of the world. Today the subject has emerged as mother discipline within the social sciences and outside, for example, Management, Sociology, Health Economics, Engineering Economics, Geography and Regional Development, etc. Pursuing higher studies in social sciences functionally relate to the institutions and places once it comes to the degree of serviceability. The intake capacity in The Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, today is filled up mostly by the candidates with parent discipline either Physics or Mathematics at the cost of bona fide Economics.

Social scientists have more or less made efforts on observation of data and investigated the relationships in a given phenomenon rather than using the inquisitive minds for inductive foundations of phenomenon, developing theory or theorizing a problem. Among the social sciences, Sociology-an important discipline in social science is mainly concerned with the study of relationships determining social behavior and assumes that the behavior in turn is influenced by social, political, occupational, intellectual groupings and by particular setting in which they find themselves at one time or the other. It owes its roots to Emile Durkheim of University of Bordeaux, George Herbert Meade and Max Weber in 19th century to lay foundations of the discipline and in contemporary world the sociologists make fragile attempts to quantify social relationships in human societies by using sociometery, etc Likewise the Anthropology studies the relationship between biological traits and socially acquired characteristics, widen the scope of the discipline as physical anthropology and Cultural Anthropology. Similarly the Geography’s concerned to study the diverse environments of places, spatial interactions of Earth’s surface, ultimately human interaction in natural environment, thus, widening the scope of second century’s Ptolemy who restricted Geography to a study of representing phenomena of known world in pictures alone. In 20th century deductive inferences in respect of phenomena, the social sciences discipline have tested theories against the observations, using sociometerics, psychometrics and statistical techniques, therefore, cannot be considered pleonasm and even the writing and drafting techniques and methods constitute integral part of standard scientific methodology being used in social sciences research. One has to bear in mind that post war economics, using advanced methods and techniques of physics, mathematics and engineering, ignoring the fact that it deals with human mind and human behavior came to be called vulgar economics. The exactitude of physical sciences or life sciences, based on lab research under controlled conditions, cannot be ipso facto applicable to of macro or micro social, variable, relationships in social sciences for being science of human society wherein stratified social groups as a social lab to investigate and research is not under control conditions.

The contemporary scientific investigations dominated by interdisciplinary research in multidisciplinary institutions in the world, on the one hand and horizontal expansion of the subject-disciplines in academic institutions, on the other have to a large extent, reduced the gap between science and social science precisely for decimation of scientific knowledge for public good and humanity, hence conceptualization of hierarchical order of material sciences, social science, technological sciences is yet to be thought of. The Nobel Prize earned for peace and literature in the world by women exceed 26 percent, a significant proportion, while for medicine, chemistry, physics and economic science more than 8 percent reflect gender presence in research.

In the global gender participation scenario, or looking at women participation index, in US technological sector and R&D alone, 47 percent are women and at global level 25 percent national parliamentarian are women and a little less than 50 percent working age women are the labour market a figure sustained over the period. The world tech giants, Amazon, Apple, Face Book, Google and Microsoft have 34.4 percent women workforce and there are 14 countries in the world with 50 percent women comprising the cabinet. Undermining women role in academics and decision making processes demonstrates ignorance particular in post war period.

Social Science in Developing Societies

The social science in developing societies is yet to make a dent in research, of the level of physical science and technology probably economics could be an exception. While I was at Hungarian Academy of Science, Institute of Economics in mid eighties, there were 56 departments in one discipline, economics at what is today called, Budapest University of Economic Sciences. The developing societies initiated the interdisciplinary approach to the multidisciplinary research very late and in post globalization era these developing nations, unlike China, demonstrated more inhibitions in moving with the wind and time in academic reforms, thereby infusing more technology – gaps, a pressing problem in developing economies facing today. The research in our institutions continues to be stereotype even the research in natural sciences sometimes is handicapped for inadequacy of modern scientific equipments available in labs. The standard scientific methodology, as critical scientific inquiry, used in social sciences research does integrate, as prelude, fundamentals - the concept, variables, hypothesis, measurement/quantification and theories, axioms, principles and laws. Researchers, during the course of review of studies on the subject, have to identify the gaps in the knowledge the discipline which he/she is intending to fill up to add to the stock knowledge, would develop analytics of social sciences. The unfortunate misplaced digital technology at the hands of some, resorting to ‘cut and paste’ and ‘download’ ‘methodology “in today’s research processes enable the investigator to bypass a regress phase of research, that is, the review of studies, hence the investigator instead of acquiring knowledge on the subject remains ignorant about the subject. The ‘cut and paste’ and ‘download’ technology has adverse impact of growth of social sciences. The concept of extensive and intensive reading has been lacking in our institutions and even perceptions about the same. We join today academic research precisely for the reason of zero opportunity cost as human capital, the pass-outs, devoid of degree of serviceability as human resource, realize their value addition neither market driven nor demand driven, therefore, merely add to the stock of human resource with zero opportunity cost. That is why we feel belonging to second graded discipline. Integration of technological inputs with standard scientific methodology tends to optimal solutions for social and economic problems being subject matter of social sciences.

Professor Nisar Ali, Former, Head and Dean, faculty of Social Sciences and Member, State Finance Commission, J&K Government.

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