Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The explanation of the crisis of social theory
by Bettayeb, Abdelaziz, Ph.D., American University, 1987, 168; 8805456
Abstract (Summary)

In this paper, I explain a commonly held view that social science suffers from a crisis. While this crisis has generally been taken by a tradition in the philosophy of science (which I call interpretationism) to be an effect of the application of the concepts of natural science to social science, this paper argues, contrary to this view, that its real causes are to be found in a particular camp in the naturalist tradition in the philosophy of science (positivism). Accordingly, I recognize a second camp within the naturalist tradition (realism). By distinguishing the interpretations of natural science advocated by these two camps, the paper gives a causal account of the mistakes of positivism in social science and their misperception by interpretationism. The paper then presents a realist view of social science based on the realist interpretation of natural science which it defends as a solution to social science's crisis.

After criticizing what I call the dialectical synthesis of positivism and interpretationism, I develop a realist naturalist theory of the social. Central to this theory, is the view that society or social structure is a real spacio-temporal physical object, like any other physical object existing in the world. Social structure, thus defined, behaves by virtue of its own causal physical mechanism. On this view, social is neither an empirical nor a mental object, but, rather, a theoretical entity. I substantiate this by Marx's theory of value. The latter is interpreted as involving the idea that social structure, capitalism, is a physical object with value being the physical mechanism that explains its behavior (the tendency to both expand and undergo crises).

I also discuss critical theory as a science of society, focusing on Habermas's criticism of Marx. While Habermas accuses Marx of being a positivist, I show that Habermas himself holds a positivist view of science. Also, I show how Habermas's attempt to found social science on the idea of communication, rather than Marx's concept of production, is unnecessary. In conclusion, Marx's theory is viewed as a realist natural science of society that does not require any revision.

Indexing (document details)
School: American University
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 49/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy
Publication Number: 8805456
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