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What Is Social Science? Essay

1367 words - 5 pages

Human evolution and the dramatic social change accompanying progress and transformation demands a uniform discipline which assesses human interaction and the social world issues that pervade society. Hence it was in the context of extraordinary societal change, the Enlightenment period, that the development of a human science or ‘social science’ emerged, defined as the ‘attempt to explain social phenomena within the limits of available evidence” (Lewins, 1992, p.5).The concept of a social science can be further understood from a philosophical stand point where the work of social scientists can be classified in terms of a positivist or non-positivist position. The particular area of social work has gained significantly from the development of a social science centred upon the positivist philosophy and research strategies. While, non-positivist ideas, particularly that of Immanuel Kant and his legacy, has enabled the development of a sociolinguistic perspective reflecting the importance of values within social scientific practice. This essay will further address the issue of what social science is and why it is important through the examination of the emergence within social work of an “evidence-based practice” (Thyer & Myers, 2011) as well as the case study of “sociolinguistic observations on the impact of changing political, economic and sociocultural factors on names and naming practices” (Hailemichael, 2010, p.109), these areas of social science in turn emphasise the importance and need for a social science in order to understand social world issues.
Professional social work originated within a ‘primarily faith-based ministerial outreach’ (Thyer & Myers, 2011, p.9) context, where religious salvation was premised upon. However, with the emerging influence of the positivist movement social works emphasise became increasingly linked to that of the social and behavioural sciences. The United States’ National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) social work dictionary defines social work as “the applied science of helping people achieve an effective level of psychosocial functioning and effecting societal changes to enhance the well-being of all people” (Barker, 2003, p.408 cited in Thyer & Myers, 2011, p.12). The push toward an evidence-based and scientifically accepted practice within social work was further emphasised by those linked to that of the social and behavioural sciences with, Bertha Capen Reynolds stating that “the scientific approach to unsolved problems is the only one which contains any hope of learning to deal with the unknown.” (Reynolds, 1942, p.142 cited in Thyer & Myers, 2011, p.11) Hence while positivism gained prominence within the natural sciences the “paradigm introduced by Auguste Comte that held that social behavior could be understood in a rational, scientific manner – in contrast to explanations based on religion or superstition” (Rubin & Babbie, 2008, p.642 cited in Thyer & Myers, 2011, p.13) also gained...

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