The Early Origins of the Social Sciences

9780773511248: Hardback
Release Date: 25th October 1993

Number of Pages: 408

McGill-Queen's University Press

The Early Origins of the Social Sciences

Arguing that the beginnings of the social sciences extend much further back than is generally realized, Lynn McDonald traces the methodological foundations, research techniques, and basic concepts of the social sciences from their earliest origins to the beginning of this century. This thorough investigation enables her to provide empirical refutation of recent radical, feminist, and environmentalist critiques that assert that the social sciences inevitably support the power relations of the status quo, are antithetical to the interests of women, and are inherently linked to the domination and destruction of nature.
Hardback / £91.00

Against these contentions she shows, for example, that women social thinkers have been active in every age since the sixteenth century. McDonald presents these women's work as evidence of the way in which the empirical social sciences have been employed by social reformers, including advocates for the equality of women, to challenge the state and those in authority. She argues as well that Weber's "interpretative sociology" has been misinterpreted, citing his extensive, but usually ignored, quantitative work. Despite the supposed opposition of interpretative and mainstream sociology, McDonald maintains that many of the founders of the discipline explored both. Covering the important eras in the development of the social sciences, she deals with the early Greeks, the seventeenth-century emergence of the scientific method (especially Bacon, Descartes, and Locke), the French Enlightenment, (especially Voltaire, Diderot, Condorcet, and Germaine de Staël), and British moral philosophy (especially Hume, Smith, and Catharine Macauley). From the nineteenth century she includes figures such as Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Quetelet, Harriet Martineau, Florence Nightingale, J.S. Mill, Harriet Taylor Mill, and Beatrice Webb.

"In the context of current debates in the social sciences this book represents a much needed contrary perspective ... It is a valuable contribution to ongoing debates and one that, to date, has no precedent. The coverage is exemplary, including as it does many theorists whose work and ideas were critical to the empiricist-positivist tradition but who have been overlooked in previous accounts dealing with this material." Rosalind Sydie, Department of Sociology, University of Alberta.