Social sciences in need of fresh life

COVID-19 has shaken the established contents of social sciences.
Social sciences in need of fresh life
Representational ImageSource: Miroslava Chrienova from Pixabay

Social sciences like religion deal with human nature. It needs appropriate interpretations and proper understanding in time and space. Human nature though seems to be a category in philosophy; its manifestations are socially and politically rooted. The idea of human nature and human possibilities are perpetually in transition. Since, the times are new normal, so the disciplines also have to be covenant with the new normal. COVID-19 has shaken the established contents of social sciences.

The focal unit of social sciences rest on human interaction. It has to be face to face in a real realm. Sociology in particular is engaged on social interaction, which forms network of social relations. Understanding these relations, which generate different forms of capital and its conversion from cultural to symbolic form? It has been the venture of Social sciences to locate the dominant metaphors of age in locating the historical notion of self and society. Modernity created a break with the past, in a sense, it rejected the otherworldly notions of know ledge, its finality without empirical verification. Rene Descartes known as the Father of modern European philosophy started doubting everything and grasped self being, as the real one,’ I doubt therefore I exist’. With the ideas presumed to be innate one, he established rationalism stream of philosophy. Contrary to it, Locke found human mind clean and blank, ’tabula rasa’ on which the chalk of experience puts its prints of this world. This branch is known Empiricism. These foundational philosophies, Rationalism and Empiricism made social sciences akin with sciences, exploring the knowledge and wisdom. This is the Modern project produced in seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to let the world know that this world is by evolution and its institutions could be perfected on Baconian knowledge and Kantian axiom of ‘pure reason’. This led us to believe that history is total accumulation of knowledge and moves on the notion of progress, linearity in its direction of change. This stage wise notion of history is known Positivism. Positivism is synonymous with modernity. All those philosophers, who were optimistic and claimed to know the laws of history, except a few, would divide time through stages, one after another. Marx understanding stage wise class struggle through labor and exchange, Durkheim’s mechanical solidarity to organic solidarity and Tonneies’s Gemini shaft to Gesell shaft are a few illustrations to tell the story. Positivism gave us two main branches, Functionalism that believed the system is for equilibrium and the consequences of social action lead to the equilibrium in a society, while as conflict school pointed out the dialectics in society and its resolution as the final agenda. One believed abnormality as pathology of the system, while another class conflict. But the common agenda was the notion of progress.

The collapse of European centrality and its promise of progress exploded rapidly. As a result of Spanish flu, aftermath of war and rise of First Wave of Feminism, soon in 1920s and after Atheistic existentialism shapes literature and social sciences to claim that no human nature exists and humans are in vacuum. The decade of 1960s witnessed the collapse of Functionalism with the emergence of Black movements, Students’ movements, and gender movements. The emergence of Feminist and post-colonial literature finally brought the bankruptcy of Marxism by the close of the previous century. This was a rupture of modernity and collapse of disciplines of social sciences that had travelled from; positivism to nihilism. The literature of absurdity, emergence of existentialism in new forms and loss of meaning to religion and ideology brought the world back to identity and genealogy with vendetta and pessimism. Social sciences through sociology revoked Weber and critical school to fill the vacuum created by the collapse of positivism. Positivism was countered by Phenomenology that does not believe on universal theories. It positions emphasis on day to day happenings, which according to it has meaning worth exploring. Foucault understands counter poses the notion of innate humanness as presented by Chomsky’s structural analysis of the mind. This enrichment from linguistic structuralism came handy to symbolic interactionism, Ethno methodology and exchange theories, which brought a collaborative and bridging episteme from philosophy, anthropology and hermeneutics to build the edifice of social sciences. Deconstructionist methodology to bring life in narratives and to unfold the past became cannon to understand the present and its trajectories. Social deconstruction theories before getting legitimization are in unresolved debate with modern Sociology on the unconscious movement of structure and the rationality of human agency. The new century came with a question ’if he is the other, who am I then’ replacing the older established ‘self and the other’ binary of modernity. Deepening of schism was prompted by the process of globalization and new social and that emerged with electronic revolution and technological networking of social and political consciousness digital media. Slowly and slowly social person was confined and at least given private space to be a person, only interested his life chances and maximizing material comfort. Those who failed in it resorted to identity and religiosity, where market through symbolic capital helped in finding world wide networking to be a member of the group, known or unknown. Social sciences leaned towards linguistics and digital cybernetics to understand the narrative of surveillance of power and domination. Lucan and Derrida brought new life of post structuralism transgressing Descartes doubt and Levi-Strauss’s structuralism by positing human intellect and consciousness to language game and its capacities to find’ signifier and signified ‘ fluid not fixed. It brings contemporary social sciences just to comprehend phenomenon as unreal and in flux.

What then is this flux? It is the challenge for social sciences to suggest human order. COVID -19 experiences have thickened this process of human seclusion and anti-social mode of orientation. Science does not shy to state that it is a continuous process of exploration; religion does face skepticism for its predictability has become too interpretative and selective in judgment. Present contents and courses in social sciences taught in educational institutions from schools to the universities seem not only irrelevant but spreading ignorance. It could be a painful elaboration of obvious, the old functionalism, and a sort of new practice through the webinars. Students barely get convinced and teachers hardly are satisfied. There is a strange revisiting of pre-modern notions about knowledge and wisdom. It comes through market creole capitalism of religious cults and sects that hardly give any salvation or meaningful existence, except a seduction of identity in stratified exclusiveness. In globalized world market and power domination, it only produces dissatisfaction and violence with surveillances and estrangement. The new social sciences need to ponder over it. The Order Making on parity, peace and compassion need to redefine on identified traditions of wisdom and social consensus. It is there in our history and civilizations. We need to explore it in all civilizations with consensus and clarity. Codifications create complications of limitations and closeness. First and foremost , we have to recognize that the sustainable literature across the time and space have been fine Arts, music, poetry narratives of oral traditions and performing Arts. This will come from the civilizations, from past to present. Instead of ‘clash of civilizations’ or dialogue of civilizations, we need to explore the lasting episteme of civilizations to construct the new edifice of social sciences. It has to be from the episteme and philosophies and oral narrative of the ancient India, Greek and Roman thought, Chinese Confucianism and Taoism, Islamic mysticism, and Kashmiri Saivism. There are all over the world small schools of thought, which are working and exploring the new episteme. We need interconnecting with it for the global symbolic capital conversion through retention and rejection blending. Europe did it from fifteenth to eighteenth centuries to give the world Enlightenment project. But Modernity met irritants of binaries to turn the contemporary capitalism to own knowledge and people for material profit making. It has created vast population a deprived and perishable populace across the globe, which cannot be functional or owned by the capitalistic system. Therefore, there is mistrust, disinformation, discourse and violence perpetually operated to exclude more and include less in the play of capitalism. It has created violence and process of willful seclusion and deprivation of large portion of population all over the world. Social sciences have become inadequate to let us know why regenerative politics is not possible, despite class inequalities. In the absence of any relevant social sciences and inadequacies of different faiths to bring order in the society, which would bring reason, morality and progress intrinsic to the system. The universal project of humankind was a European project. It needs complimenting of epistemic glue from all the sources, oriental and occidental to structure the new social sciences for the universal human project. Experimentation with the multiple- modernity is needed now.

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