“Despite the continuous flow of ‘new developments’ the social sciences appear to be in the doldrums, suggesting that the foundations of these sciences are not yet right” — so read the very first lines of Harrison C. White’s main theoretical work Identity and Control (1992). As this initial statement clearly indicates, in this book White launches a rather stern critique of much of the existing social sciences, and aspires to lay the foundation of a new sociology. Indeed, he not only accuses the dominant paradigms of the contemporary social sciences of being flawed and inadequate, but also calls into question their very claim of being scientific. And exhorting us to abandon them all together, he takes upon himself to reground the discipline and start afresh — this time building on a truly scientific foundation. Coming from a man known for his iconoclasm (Brint 1992), this is obviously a bold and provocative claim, coupled with a grand ambition that, if substantiated, will pose a severe challenge with far-reaching implications for sociology, and for much of the rest of the social sciences as well. But the history of sociology abounds with grandiose enterprises that aim to remold the discipline on the basis of some self-proclaimed, revolutionary ideas. And as the disappointing fate of many such attempts recommends caution one may be justified in asking what makes things different this time.
KeywordsCoherence Arena Karen Prose
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