History of the Human Sciences 16 (4):61-84 (2003)

Abstract
The ‘cultural turn’ in social thought, and the rise of interpretive modes of social analysis, have raised the issue of how social criticism can legitimately be undertaken given the central role of actors’ understandings in constituting social reality. In this article I examine this issue by exploring debates around Winch’s interpretive approach. I suggest that Winch’s arguments usefully identify problems with external criticism, that is, criticism that attempts to contrast actors’ beliefs with the social world as it really is. However, I also argue that Winch’s Wittgensteinian account of rule-following, on a plausible interpretation, places excessively strong restrictions on the possibility of internal criticism. In order to show the problems with such restrictions, I critically appraise two accounts of social criticism that are compatible with Winch’s arguments, those of Pleasants and Giddens, arguing that neither offers a satisfactory analysis. I then argue that if a viable notion of internal criticism is to be established Winch’s account of rule-following needs to be rejected. Having briefly offered an alternative, I suggest that it allows a more convincing conception of internal criticism, in which the understandings of actors can be criticized on the basis of their internal contradictions. The article then attempts to meet a possible objection to this position: that the logical judgements of contradiction and coherence required for immanent critique are not cross-culturally valid. I claim that such judgements are generally valid, and develop an argument for this position based on a critique of Lukes’s arguments
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DOI 10.1177/0952695103164004
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References found in this work BETA

Idealism and the Sociology of Knowledge.David Bloor - 1996 - Social Studies of Science 26 (4):839-856.
Toward a Monistic Theory of Science: The `Strong Programme' Reconsidered.Stephen Kemp - 2003 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 33 (3):311-338.
Winch, Wittgenstein and the Idea of a Critical Social Theory.Nigel Pleasants - 2000 - History of the Human Sciences 13 (1):78-91.
Winch and Wittgenstein on Understanding Ourselves Critically: Descriptive Not Metaphysical.Nigel Pleasants - 2000 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 43 (3):289 – 317.
Different Cultures, Different Rationalities?Steven Lukes - 2000 - History of the Human Sciences 13 (1):3-18.

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Citations of this work BETA

Institutions and Social Structures1.Steve Fleetwood - 2008 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 38 (3):241-265.
Questioning Contingency in Social Life: Roles, Agreement and Agency.Stephen Kemp & John Holmwood - 2012 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 42 (4):403-424.
Rules, Intentions and Social Behavior: A Reassessment of Peter Winch.Jordi Fairhurst - 2019 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 50 (4):429-445.

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