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[xmca] Lewin and unification of the social sciences

A propos the previous conversation about the fracturing of the social
sciences into self-contained, self-sustaining units, I came across this
1947 piece by Kurt Lewin.
I'm starting to think that there was something about the post-WWII
historical moment that encouraged this kind of work. Maybe something about
a shared and powerful ethic of working together to solve serious problems
facing humanity? (whereas today's social science tends to pick little
problems every here and there - XMCA researchers excepted, of course). Or
maybe there was a greater appreciation that social problems are real?

Lewin devotes a portion of his article to metaphysical questions of
existence - what objects does the mainstream public see as particularly
"real" today? (What is Latour's term for more or less "real"?). My guess is
"genes and neurons" would be what people think of as the most real and most
important objects in our lives. That's why brain researchers can publish
book after book about what "brain science" tells us about how to raise
better children or to stop war or whatever - and these books get gobbled up
by publishers and the public. Most of the times the links between the
science and the suggestions are specious at best - usually much worse than

For most people today, I suspect that social and psychological phenomena
are nothing more than ghostly (geist-ly?!) apparitions. Makes it hard for
anyone to see the relevance of a "social theorist" to the problems facing
humanity today. Can't we just solve these problems with a pill? or by
rewiring the brain? or recoding the genes?

To put my position another way, it's not so much that I am AGAINST
neuroscience as it is that I am FOR social science. Or better, for both
neuroscience AND social science. That seems to me to be what Luria was up
to. And Lewin too...

(and btw, someone recently articulated this position very nicely on XMCA,
but I've forgotten who - apologies for not citing them...).

Rooting (in both senses) for the underdog.

Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602

Attachment: Lewin, Kurt - Frontiers in Group Dynamics - concept, method and reality is social science - social equlibria and social change.pdf
Description: Adobe PDF document