A few sentences instead of the introduction;
Life is a complex equation, and the fundamental logic of social sciences is trying to solve this. It can be described as the effort of looking for the truth. There are some books on this subject, but this study is a summary of the “Open Science” book prepared by the “Gulbenkian Commission“. When examined, it will be seen that the logic of social sciences and the development processes from history to the present are explained rather than a simple summary.
Summary of first Part of the book (from 18th century to 1945): fields and basic logic of social sciences
In the 18th century, various categories of knowledge emerged as a result of the state’s need for exact information. But these categories still had uncertain definitions like social physics, called by social philosophers. Likewise, as a result of this, universities were revived as the main places where knowledge is created (after parting with the church).
In the period until 1945, each in different ways (for instance, anthropology has emerged thanks to traveler and explorer) various fields were formed like politics, history, economics, sociology, anthropology. After existence, their all became a university discipline (actually they acquired such a quality).
It must be said that something about three fields that never be counted as principal components of social sciences: geography, psychology, and law.
In these ages, geography was just a subject that helps history and supports it. So, geography did not take place in social sciences. Psychology was not included in the social sciences because it deals with the medical field rather than the social field. Hence, its legitimacy depended on natural sciences rather than social sciences. In this sense, we can divide it into two parts called physiological/chemical examination and analyzing the individual. Law was not also included within social sciences, because there already was a faculty that training lawyers of law before social sciences.
To summarize up to this part, sub-disciplines have emerged as they have different informational fields in various periods. Over time, these sub-disciplines were entirely referred to as social sciences and began to acquire chairs (lectern) in universities. Departments and faculties were founded. By 1945 most of the social science fields mentioned has been institutionalized (the situation of institutionalized will be late in some countries that adopt communism and fascism).
As a subheading, it should be mentioned that idiographic and nomothetic approaches, which are two different representations of the approach to social sciences. While the idiographic approach prefers to focus and examine the events one by one, the nomothetic approach is content with a general portrait. In this context, the first anthropologists, like the first historians, became the anthropologists of certain peoples despite their enthusiasm for universality. So, they were interested in things that can idiographic.
Summary of Second Part of the book (from 1945 to the present): structure of social sciences
In the period after 1945, 3 crucial developments affected the structure of the social sciences:
These three situations brought along some problems. First, social scientists have also started to be interested in other social fields. Second, the US has been an overwhelming power after 2. world war and this situation caused that social scientists became “American centrist” (actually priorities changed). In addition to all these, economic developments increased investment in social sciences. The dominance of the West has started to come to an end in social sciences as well as in the political. Let me mention about effects on 3 topics of all these changes that occur in the world:
I) The most crucial academic innovation in the process after 1945 was initiating regional researches. Regional researches were multidisciplinary studies. Because there were needed historians to study the historical structure of the region, and political scientists to examine the political structure of the region. Thus, there was an interaction/exchange between institutions. In the final analysis, multidisciplinary researches show us that in social practice this is not possible to separate the social science information.
The abolition of social science borders had two consequences. First, as we mentioned, boundaries of disciplines disappeared. Second, collective new units, and clustering occurred (like the science of management which contains some fields of social science).
II) From history to the present every academic discipline has a universality claim. Because it is necessary to claim universality to be institutional. Three major branches (the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences) of contemporary information had also different allegations about universality. It is necessary to say that universality has never been achieved for social sciences (it is just a big ideal).
A reality about universality in the period between 1945-1970 should be mentioned. Social science ideas prevailing in Europe and America also dominated other regions. In other words, social science studies were carried out under the domination of the west. The extent of universality in this period is a matter of great debate. The western was litmus of universality so, the more western you were, the more universal you were (!). In summary, to understand the richness of social realities must be pluralistic universality.
III) Before 1945, social sciences were divided between two cultures. While one side wanted to position the social sciences within the humanities, the other side wanted to see it within natural sciences.
When we look at the two cultural issues we are faced with a realistic assumption. Science was more rational, strict, strong, effective, and serious than literature, philosophy, and art. So, science was more crucial than others. The reason for this was science was more western, modern than others.
It should be said that; today, it is not possible to distinguish three branches of contemporary knowledge (humanities, social sciences, natural sciences) with an absolute distinction. Because social sciences have a quality that can ‘make peace’ between humanities and natural sciences.
Enes Bera Koşar