Changing Fashions in the Social Sciences

Alan Ryan discusses the short and acrimonious history of the social services.

From the late eighteenth century onwards, those who thought that society could be investigated in the same way and with the same prospects of success as any other part of the natural order have confronted those who thought that there was a logical gulf between the investigation of nature and the investigation of culture. Those who thought that the social sciences were to all intents and purposes a branch of the natural sciences at large have been attacked as 'technocrats', denyers of the obvious fact of human freedom – the sort of people Carlyle ridiculed as the products of a mechanical age, whose hearts and heads had grown mechanical too.

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