What is social science?

Re: What is social science?

Postby The Comrade » Sat Oct 26, 2013 5:44 pm

exploited wrote:
The Comrade wrote:i'd say biology is irrelevant. we've been talking about cell structure for, what, 100 years now? old-hat.


And there has been serious, quantifiable advances in our understanding of cell structure over the past hundred years.

There has been no similar advances in describing how institutions effect people (in the general sense that social science has always embraced). That shit is dead. Social science will evolve to describe how individuals form power structures, using actual sciences like neurology and group psychology, or it will continue to be almost totally irrelevant to how decisions are actually made in our society.

Even the most strident socialist is aware that his understanding of class inequality boons him nothing. It loosely describes how society functions, but it doesn't at all describe how individuals allocate their loyalty, or how genes predispose people to certain behaviours that the political system has to deal with (crime and violence, cooperation versus competition, that kind of thing), or how a person can come to influence vast numbers of people he has never met, etc.

These are questions that we are finally going to be able to answer, questions we could only guess at before (like the human nature debate).


this is just ignorance of the topic and i'm not going to spend hours telling you otherwise. and the fact that you can only see this in terms of socialism because BR mentioned marx is even more indication you don't really have solid footing on this topic.
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Re: What is social science?

Postby exploited » Sat Oct 26, 2013 6:07 pm

Okay.
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Re: What is social science?

Postby broken robot » Sun Nov 03, 2013 3:38 am

Okay, back for a quick update, this time just going to talk about capitalism based on what we've been discussing about corporations and ex's belief that their innovations in understanding "how people work" will undermine standard analyses of society. As I'll demonstrate below, social science is constantly grappling with new changes to economy, politics, and so on albeit in a way that incorporates past debates and builds on them to produce new insights about the transformation of social life. Also I've updated the OP, trying to maintain a more systematic, less colloquial presentation. Hopefully that doesn't reduce what I consider still the important and interesting aspects of social science.

So the original definition of capitalism goes back to the English political economists. Personally I don't know much about Adam Smith but my understanding is that through their readings of proto-economists such as the physiocrats they refined basic economic categories such as land, labor, and rent in order to analyze the incipient organization of capitalism in late 18th century England. Before this period other relationships obtained between lords and serfs that inhibited the development of a market based on the free exchange of commodities, including the transformation of labor itself into a commodity. The surplus extracted from the oppressed classes, in this case the peasants, was based on means of coercion that existed outside the process of production itself. Basically peasants farmed and produced the basic commodities such as food, and the lords extracted tribute based on their military and political power. At the same time the feudal era wasn't just based on this dyadic relationship, but also the growth of towns and the emergence of trading groups. While we commonly think of Europe before the 17th century, or the "early modern" period, as just the embodiment of the feudal relationship between lords and serfs, there were important city-states such as Venice that some argue was base on an incipient form of capitalism particularly the expansion of trade.

After reading the English political economists, Marx realized that capitalism is based on the sale of labor as a commodity. The capitalist that owns the means of production purchases the laborer's labor power for x amount of time. A specific amount of this time is for the creation of value that sustains the social reproduction of labor given the historically and culturally specific standards of living, what Marx called "socially necessary labor time." The rest of the time is based on creating surplus value for the capitalist. However since the actual outcome of the process of production is commodities the labor is erased, made invisible in the "free market" of commodity exchange. Sale of these commodities produces profit which is reinvested in the expansion of the firm. As Marx famously said, in order to counteract this tendency we must enter the "hidden abode" of the labor process in order to understand the actual logic driving capitalism. Again this isn't based on the free market, which is simply based on exchange. The actual production of value occurs through the purchase of labor and the process of surplus extraction. Contrast this with the feudal relationship between lords and serfs. The capitalist no longer depends on extra-economic means of coercion. Rather the very process of capitalist production conceals exploitation. This is mirrored by the juridical relations of bourgeois society that simply recognizes "individuals" guaranteed equality under the law. Marx viewed this as a mystification of the basic forms of inequality that guarantee the reproduction of capitalist society based on the division among classes.

Now obviously a lot has changed since Marx's time, which was based on the historical realities of 19th century England undergoing the industrial revolution. Elsewhere around the world different relations of labor were involved in the overall capitalist system, most obviously slavery. There have been major debates over the extent to which slavery was seen as necessary to the emergence of modern capitalism. Moreover, political economists such as Eric Wolf examine the incorporation, or "articulation," of modes of production within the overall capitalist system that was emerging across the globe in the 19th century. "Dependency theory" argues that this has involved the uneven incorporation of geographic areas. In Latin America in the 18th, 19th centuries , for example, a latifundia developed in addition to the hacienda system which depended on the exploitation of indigenous and peasant communities based on more feudal extractive relationships. Thus even as capitalism developed in its paradigmatic form in Europe, this did not extend to other parts of the world and interacted with larger processes of transformation such as colonialism and the role of unfree forms of labor. At the same time, other Marxist theorists such as Robert Brenner have criticized the dependency theorists because they argue the dependency theorists depend on the same style of analysis as Adam Smith, insofar as inequality is supposedly produced through the unequal exchange among territories (later independent nation-states) in a global market, ignoring labor and class struggle within relations of production.

Taking the Marxist analysis of capitalism forward, contemporary authors have looked at the reorganization of capitalism including its ability to commodify more and more aspects of social life. A good example is social media which depends on the commoditization of social relationships, such as new trends in marketing based on consumer preferences in addition to more mundane interactions with friends. In addition, new trends in the economy since the 1970s and 1980s have undermined the standard "Fordist" relations. These relations were essentially a mid-20th century western model based on rationalizing mass production--think assembly workers working in a single factory. New "post-Fordist" relations have emerged including the introduction of more precarious and temporary forms of employment (outsourcing, temp work, etc). Some even argue that the fundamental logic of capitalism has changed because it's based now on increasingly complex forms of financial speculation that are ever more divorced from the basic realities of material commodity production (for example the invention of new financial markets based on derivatives, junk bonds, and more). As a result it's important to recognize pace the discussion above that Marx was himself a product of his times and thus we must avoid turning his analysis into a metaphysical framework based on a reified notion of capitalism. This inevitably misses more fundamental, empirical changes to the global economy that transform the insights of social theory. Basically what I mean is that to rely on an antiquated understanding of capitalists and workers in the 19th century framework of industrial relations misses the more unique aspects of the contemporary economy, including the rise of what David Harvey refers to as "flexible accumulation," precarious employment, outsourcing and other trends. At the same time this means recuperating Marx's central insight that capitalism is not the "natural" product of timeless patterns of human behavior but rather is a product of history and interacts with other structures such as politics.
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Re: What is social science?

Postby The Dharma Bum » Sun Nov 03, 2013 6:13 am

The fundamental logic of capitalism hasn't changed art all. It's extractive, so anything that facilitates that process is seen as acceptable within this framework. The increasing complexity of society simply obscures more of it's inner workings. Today the average person has little chance of understanding what is being done to him by society, much less find a way to stop it.

That's why we want to talk about the fundamentals a lot. They are just as relevant today as they have ever been. More so, I would say, given the intensive effort to monetize every aspect of life and the world. Any social relation is seen as fertile ground for more extraction.

I don't know maybe we are just a parasitic species and should just accept reality. Seems like a waste of perfectly good consciousness to me, though.
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Re: What is social science?

Postby The Dharma Bum » Sun Nov 03, 2013 6:19 am

Homo Sapiens Sapiens

The only parasite that infects it's own species.

Surely there is more to say about us than that.
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Re: What is social science?

Postby gla22 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 5:52 pm

Wanted to bring up something I heard on the radio today. They were talking about ant colonies and how ants are more or less mechanical creatures pretty much reacting to phenomenon.

It is my opinion that we should not be looking at an ant as an organism, instead the colony is the organism. The same goes for many other types of insects like bees. Bees for example are perfectly willing to sacrifice their own lives for the safety of the colony, the bees as individuals evolve in response to environmental pressures, but emergent properties of the entire hive evolve too in response to environmental conditions. The hive should be looked at as the organism, not the bees themselves.

Humans are clearly much different from insects, however there are definitely some similarities, in that over tens of thousands of years different ways of structuring society were more successful than others in different environments and there was selection pressures put on societies, tribes ect as a whole which shaped how we communicate, how we act ect. I do not think all these differences are necessarily learned, but in some respects ingrained into our DNA. Humans are more independent than other species like bees, however we are naturally social animals that apart from civilization wouldn't exist alone but in groups of 30-150 humans.

Western individualist capitalism has more or less destroyed the social structure of the band of 30-150 individuals in almost all cases, except strange and resilient social structures like biker gangs, the mafia, street gangs, religious cults and some families. Your average office drone seeks out group activities like Crossfit, EDM concerts, spin class ect. to feel like they are 'part of a tribe.'
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Re: What is social science?

Postby The Dharma Bum » Wed Nov 06, 2013 5:57 pm

In short,

We've destroyed the monkysphere with industrialized production.

Totally agree
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Re: What is social science?

Postby Leviathan » Wed Nov 06, 2013 6:01 pm

Would you agree that the industrial revolution has been a disaster for the human race?
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Re: What is social science?

Postby The Dharma Bum » Wed Nov 06, 2013 6:03 pm

I think agriculture has been been a disaster for the human race.
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Re: What is social science?

Postby gla22 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 6:28 pm

I don't think industrial production or agriculture has to be a disaster, but I think the current paradigm is far from ideal. The current system is incredibly efficient at creating more wealth, money and stuff, but is terribly inefficient at turning that production into forms that benefit peoples lives. I think the current productive capacity of the world is sufficient to provide for a very happy, healthy functional world if the world was organized better.

Instead we have large amounts of people living worse than they would have as hunter gathers, others with marginal improvements, and only about 50% actually living better.
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