The Social Science Department at the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has issued a call for research that explores the “value of a social science” and whether it “reflects reality.”
In the same article, the Department’s research director, Mark Nussbaum, argues that a strong focus on social science should lead to more successful experiments.
“In the real world, we do not know everything,” he writes.
“We don’t know all that we need to know about social justice or social justice issues, or even how to do a good social science experiment.
Our data should not be used as a way to dismiss those challenges, and as a result, we must understand and tackle them.
Our job is to understand what makes social science work and what we need from it.”
In his article, Nussmeier says that “social science is more than just a quantitative science, or a theoretical science, a social scientist must also understand how it functions as a social construction.”
He argues that social science is not just about the social and political dimensions of a given social or economic situation.
Social science is also a “comparative” science, that is, it should “be a lens through which we understand and engage with how a social situation affects and informs our lives.”
In other words, Nusbaum argues that the value that social scientists and other scientists place on “social sciences” and their research is not merely about the number of citations or the citations per student or the number on the front of the abstract, but more importantly about the way that social scientific work is structured.
The idea that a good research project should incorporate “social constructs” has become a popular one, particularly in the fields of social psychology, social psychology research and political science, and has been seen as one of the most important steps to building a more inclusive society.
However, Nesbaum says that the social science discipline has “fallen victim to the self-serving, dogmatic and self-aggrandizing claims that we are being ‘social scientists’ who are doing a bad job of doing so.”
His concerns echo the concerns of social justice advocates who argue that the emphasis on social constructivism and social science “distorts our understanding of how to understand and solve our problems.”
According to the Social Science Project, an organization that advocates for social justice, the emphasis that social constructs place on social scientists is “misleading.”
For example, a 2016 report from the Social Sciences Project stated that social constructivist scholars have been “misusing social science as a weapon of social control” and have been attempting to discredit social science by promoting a “sociological approach to social science.”
Nussba writes that social sciences are often “dismantled from their historical context and used to justify an ideological agenda.”
As a result of this, the concept of “social construction” is “re-branded, legitimized, and then used as an effective tool to promote social justice.”
Nusba says that a better understanding of social constructism is essential for a better social science research agenda.
Nussbee is currently the director of the Social and Cultural Psychology Department at Duke University, which is “dedicated to the development and practice of a socially constructivist social science model.”
In an interview with The College Fix, Nisba says “social constructivism has come under attack from social justice activists and scholars alike” because of the “hype and sensationalism” that social theorists have promoted about the research.
Nusbee says that he and other social scientists have a responsibility to be open to new research and new perspectives.
“I think that we’re in the midst of a cultural revolution in social sciences,” he says.
“A revolution that is driven by the idea that social epistemology and social constructiveness are so powerful, and the social sciences so central to the lives of so many of us, that we should not have to accept the ‘social constructivist’ model that is so commonly promoted.”
Nissba says his research is concerned with the ways in which social constructivity and social sciences can inform the way we think about race, gender, and other identities.
Nilsesb says that his research aims to “reconstruct social constructive social theories” and “make them more socially relevant, not less.”
Nesbee, for his part, says that it is important to continue to “engage constructivist researchers” in his research program.
In his view, it is not the role of social scientists to promote “theoretical or theoretical frameworks that are not grounded in social science, nor is it the role that social social scientists play in building social constructives.”
He adds that social scholars “should not be afraid to question assumptions, or to challenge the social constructivists who are so often at the forefront of the current social justice movement.”
This article originally appeared at The College Hook Up on April 15, 2018.