There is No Such Thing as Social Science: In Defence of Peter Winch

Analysis 69 (4):795-797 (2009)
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This provocative, engaging and important book marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Peter Winch's seminal The Idea of a Social Science . The authors – the first two philosophers, the third a sociologist – have worked together in various permutations before. No-one familiar with their previous publications will be surprised that the dominant voice throughout is Wittgenstein's – that is, Wittgenstein as read ‘resolutely’ by ‘new Wittgensteinians’. They have three principal aims: first, to read Winch's own work in an equally ‘resolute’ way; hence to read ISS as prophylactic and therapeutic in intention, and not as heralding a wonderful or not-so-wonderful new social theory; secondly, to defend Winch against certain persistent charges; and thirdly, to persuade social theorists and philosophers of ‘social science’ that Winch's therapeutic lessons have not yet been assimilated, with the possible exception of a handful of ethnographers and ethnomethodologists.Following a substantial introductory section, Chapters 1 and 2 – respectively, entitled ‘Beyond pluralism, monism, relativism, realism etc.: reassessing Peter Winch’ and ‘Winch and linguistic idealism’ – argue that Winch cannot be seen as an advocate of linguistic idealism or “any of the other ‘isms’ that have been reactively bandied about …



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