Social Scientists

The scientific method is a way of looking at things; it is a way of looking that accepts as true only those things that observers can verify as true. For an idea to be scientific it must be universally perceived as true and is verifiable by any observer who follows the scientific method. An idea that cannot be verified is discarded. Karl Popper added the additional criterion of falsifiability; an idea must be falsifiable to be scientific; that is, there is a way to prove its truth or lack of it. For example, if one says that there is God…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:42

An Assessment of The Social Sciences

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During the month of March (2008) I lived social science. I devoted every spare time I had to thinking about the major social scientists and their contributions to their field of endeavor. I am now done with that task. However, I find myself wondering whether social science really is a science or a pseudo science? In this essay, I will try to answer my own question and if, perchance, similar questions exercise your mind you could benefit from my cogitations. To answer my question we first must have some clarity as to what is science? What is science? During the…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:41

Karl Marx: Men of Ideas

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Karl Heinrich Marx (1818-1883) was a German Jew who systematized socialism and tried to make the ideology a science worthy of academic study (his book, Das Capital has academic pretensions). Karl Marx and Frederic Engels collaborated in writing the Communist Manifesto (1848), a sort of Bible for Communist revolutionaries. Marx did not see himself as utopian but an utopian (social idealist) he was, for only such a person would disregard human nature and say: “from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs”. That is to say that all people should work together, each using his…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:40

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: Men of Ideas

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Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865) was a French writer whose writings come under the rubric of socialism, that is, social idealism. Proudhon is famous for saying that all property is theft. Proudhon chose to believe that everything in nature belong to all people and that any one who claims a part of it as his personal property has stolen it from the rest of us. Proudhon believed that what one produces is ones property. He agrees that the only legitimate justification for property is labor, but the individual’s labor. If I work for something directly that something is legitimately mine. But if…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:39

Robert Owen: Men of Ideas

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Robert Owen (1771-1858) was a British industrialist turned philanthropist and utopian socialist. Owen made money running factories and apparently took pity on the workers laboring in his factories and sought ways to ameliorate their plight. He came up with ideas on having workers work in a cooperative manner where they jointly owned the factories and jointly made management decisions on how to run the factories. He also sought ways to improve the workers living conditions and saw cooperative, communal living, as one way to go about this. Owen built communal communities where folk lived and worked together. He called his…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:38

Charles Fourier: Men of Ideas

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Francois Marie Charles Fourier (1772-1837) is considered by many as one of the founders of the socialist movement. Actually, he is best characterized as a social idealist. The man saw the imperfect real world and did not like what he saw and used introspection to come up with how the world should be. His mind produced ideals for everything he saw and believed was imperfect. Alas, ideals are of the mind, are mentalistic and when tried in the real world the exigencies of the environment, space, time and social opposition alter them. Ideals never turn out as hoped when attempted…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:38

Arthur Laffer: Men of Ideas

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Arthur Laffer (1940- ) is an American economist of the Chicago school; that is, he believes in the Laissez Faire economic system. His claim to fame is his teaching that governments obtain more revenue by growing business (supply side) so that they produce goods and services, sell them and the economy expands. He does not want governments to over tax the goose that lays the golden egg. He would prefer that governments did not tax corporations and businesses at all but since governments cannot exist without revenue from taxation, that corporate taxes be very minimal. This does not mean that…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:36

Milton Friedman: Men of Ideas

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Milton Friedman (1912-2006) was an American economic historian (his book on the economic history of the United States is considered a classic). Friedman appeared to be an ideologue for capitalism; his 1962 book, Capitalism and Freedom, made the case that Capitalism is correlated with freedom; in fact, he seemed to believe that capitalism is the only economic system that can sustain freedom. Friedman devoted much of his academic career to making the argument that capitalism ought to be the preferred economic system of the countries of the world because it is, he believed, the only economic system capable of sustaining…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:36

Vilfredo Pareto: Men of Ideas

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Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) was an Italian economist who did significant work on income distribution and individual choices. He demonstrated that in most economies a handful of the population, 20 percent of the population, seems to have as much as the other 80% of the population. (Actually the percentages have worsened, in the USA one percent of the population own as much as the rest of the population; CEOs of America’s top corporations make as much as all their other employees lumped together. In modern societies, wealth is concentrated in a few hands.) Basically, what Pareto contributed to economic discourse is…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:35

Joseph Schumpeter: Men of Ideas

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Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) was a Moravian economist and political scientist. His major contribution to economic discourse is his work on Business cycles (developed in his book, The Theory of Economic Development). Schumpeter talked about the absence of innovations and circular flow which ultimately leads to stagnation of economic activities (sort of like negative equilibrium) until the business entrepreneur enters the picture with his new ideas on how to do things and jump starts the economy. The entrepreneurial businesses disturb the equilibrium and generate business development in the economy. Each business cycle allegedly lasts for about fifty years before stagnation sets…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:34

John Maynard Keynes: Men of Ideas

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John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) was a British economist whose ideas on how to deal with unemployment, inflation, recession and depression have had lasting impact on the world. In his book, General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936) Keynes outlined his understanding of what causes unemployment, interest rate issues and money supply issues. His causal analysis is routine economic analysis; his point of departure is what he recommended to solve those problems. His recommendation was not particularly original for in one form or another, governments have been doing what he recommended. However, he was the first to systematize these ideas…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:33

Thomas Malthus: Men of Ideas

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Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) was an English economist (and Anglican pastor). He was the first formal professor of economics, which was then called Political Economy, in 1805. Malthus’ major contribution to economic discourse is his “Essay on the Principle of Population” (1798). He wrote this book to counteract the progressives’ optimism that through reason all the problems that beset mankind would be solved. Progressives like Jean Jacque Rousseau believed that through reason (French enlightenment) man and his society would become heaven like. (Rousseau was actually an idealist, a romantic rather than a realistic thinker.) Malthus set out to show that…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:32

David Ricardo: Men of Ideas

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David Ricardo (1772-1823) systematized the economic theory laid down by Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus and helped make the study of economics a formal academic discipline. In addition to systematizing the discipline, Ricardo added to the discipline with his Labor Theory of Value (explicated in his book, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation). Ricardo was not the first person to talk about labor added value but was the first to formally articulate it in an academic text book. That which exists in nature may or may not have value but it is the labor expended on it to make it…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:31

Adam Smith: Men of Ideas

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Adam Smith (1723-1790) was a Scottish economist that many believe is the founder of classical economics. Along with David Ricardo and Thomas Malthus he gave shape to what today is called the science of economics. Before his time folk studied economics, usually under philosophy; there was no separate discipline called economics. All these changed when Adam Smith published his “An Inquiry Into the Nature and Cause of the Wealth of Nations, in 1776 (the very year that the USA came into being and embraced his gospel of Laissez Faire Economics). Adam Smith wrote his book in reaction to the prevailing…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:30

Claude Levi-Strauss: Men of Ideas

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Claude Levi-Strauss (1908- ) is a French anthropologist noted for developing the concept of structuralism and functionalism for understanding so-called primitive societies. In so-called primitive societies many of the structures we take for granted in the Western world do not seem to exist. In the West, for example, when we talk of governance we talk of legislative bodies, executive bodies and judicial bodies. We talk of the legislature making laws, the executive implementing them and judges adjudicating disputes on the basis of the law. When we go to preliterate societies we might not see structures specifically called legislative, executive and…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:29

Margaret Mead: Women of Ideas

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Margaret Mead (1901-1978) was an American anthropologist. She did her field work in Samoa, in the Asian Pacific and wrote up her findings in a book called Coming of Age in Samoa. Her whole academic reputation rests on her findings during her field work in Samoa and the information she reported in the ensuing book. She claimed that the teenage girls of Samoa and their culture had a different attitude towards sex from what obtained in the West. Whereas in the Western world, the Judeo-Christian religion teaches abstinence from sex until a girl is married, Mead said that the Samoan…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:28

Bronislaw Malinowski: Men of Ideas

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Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) is considered one of the most important anthropologists of the twentieth century. Indeed, he was part of that elect group, which included Franz Boaz and Ruth Benedict that started the anthropological enterprise. His field work in what is now called Papua New Guinea and the Trobriand Islands is considered a classic of ethnographic studies. What is anthropology? Anthropology is the same as sociology. However, whereas sociologists tended to study what they called modern societies, anthropologists studied the same subjects studied by sociologists but this time on so-called primitive societies. In a manner of speaking, anthropology is sociology…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:27

Ferdinand Tonnies: Men of Ideas

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Ferdinand Tonnies (1855-1936) was a German sociologist who, along with Max Weber, founded the study of sociology in Germany. Tonnies, sometimes spelled Toennies, wrote many articles and books but is primarily known for his differentiation between two types of sociological communities: Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. Gemeinschaft is what we might call natural groupings of human beings, such as families, clans’ men, tribes’ men, villagers and those who perceive themselves as in some way connected. Members of such groups tend to see each other as one of them and work for their mutual interests. The survival of the group is perceived as…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:26

Max Weber: Men of Ideas

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Maximilian Carl Emil Weber (1864-1920) was a German scholar who has come to be called everything from sociologist to political scientist and economist. Max Weber is a traditional German thinker who, in a different age, probably would be called philosopher but in our age of specialization and categorization folk see a need to see him as a sociologist. Indeed, some even consider him as one of the founders of the discipline of sociology. He called some of his major writings the sociology of this or that (sociology of Religion, for example) but those writings appear more like philosophical treatises than…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:25

Karl Mannheim : Men of Ideas

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Karl Mannheim (1893-1947) continued the work of establishing sociology as an academic discipline. Mannheim is considered the founder of the sociology of knowledge. Generally, many folk assume that knowledge is not a social construct. Mannheim showed that what is considered knowledge, or truth, is a social variable. It is what a group of people, at least, its opinion leaders, accept as true that is seen as true in any group. What is the truth is not self evident but is the consensus of the rulers of society. Truth is a social construct and not that which we all could look…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:23

Emile Durkheim: Men of Ideas

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Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) is generally considered the father of the academic discipline of Sociology. Before him folks, of course, wrote on what might be construed as sociological, folks like Auguste Comte and George Sorel, but those could be subsumed under the rubric of philosophy. It was Emil Durkheim who made the argument that there is a particular way of looking at phenomena that is sociological. Sociology is that methodological approach to people that says that they are not free agents and that they are determined by their society. Society and its various units, such as family, siblings, peer groups, schools,…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:21

Harold Laswell: Men of Ideas

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Harold Laswell (1902-1978) was an American political scientist. Whereas he contributed immensely to most aspects of political science the aspect of his work that stands out most in this observer’s view is his political psychology. He attempted to understand the relationship of politics and the individual’s personal psychology. For example, did Adolf Hitler’s personality affect his political behavior? In his book, World Politics and Personal Insecurity (1935), he tried to show a link between the individual’s psychopathology and his pathological behavior in the political arena. In Power and Personality (1935), he continued that inquiry. It is not so much what…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:20

Henry Kissinger: Men of Ideas

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Henry Kissinger (1923- ) is a German- Jewish-American. His parents, along with him, fled Nazi Germany and settled at New York, USA. He served in the US army as an interpreter of German language during the Second World War. At the termination of the war he completed his education at Harvard and obtained a doctorate degree in political science. Thereafter, he embarked on teaching the nature of political realism at Harvard University. Kissinger's path to fame is his emphasis on political realism and geopolitics. For him, nothing should be done out of sentimental reasons but from pure calculation of self…
Monday, 19 March 2012 08:18

Carl Von Clausewitz: Men of Ideas

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Carl Von Clausewitz (1780-1831) was a Prussian military general who wrote the famous treatise on the military, On War (Vom Kriege). That book is considered unsurpassable in its understanding of military affairs: military strategy, military tactics and the politics of war. Von Clausewitz was a professional soldier and served in many capacities while in the army. Indeed, for a while he served in foreign armies, the Russian army; he served as the military attaché in his country’s embassies abroad. In addition to understanding military matters, planning and winning wars he also understood that militaries exist to serve non-military purposes. Human…
Prince Klemens Von Metternich (1773-1859) was an Austrian diplomat in the nineteenth century, especially during the Napoleonic wars. He was not a scholar and did not write great books. His path to historical remembrance is his political realism. He is an adept at practicing political realism. Let us therefore discuss the concept of political realism and use this dull Austrian of questionable talents as an illustration of the idea. Political realism is rooted in Machiavelli’s conception of politics and Hobbes perception of human nature. According to this realistic view, people are motivated by self interests. Nations, like people, are motivated…