Re: [asa] The ASA and the Soft Sciences

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Sun Jan 04 2009 - 03:01:20 EST

Correction, should read:
"WithOUT morality, economics turns into anarchy and 'crisis' becomes a symbol of the age."


--- On Sun, 1/4/09, Gregory Arago <> wrote:

From: Gregory Arago <>
Subject: Re: [asa] The ASA and the Soft Sciences
To: "ASA list" <>, "Preston Garrison" <>
Received: Sunday, January 4, 2009, 12:06 AM

Hello Preston, David O. and others in this thread,
One of the issues that distinguishes human-social sciences from natural-physical sciences is the importance of a national context in which theories are posited, tested or applied in comparison with the supposed 'universality' of nature (or Nature).
For example, when Rich writes about the 'self-marginalization of the church' it is quite obviously a local context and not a global one in which he is speaking. 'The church,' which is far, far more 'unified' under Orthodoxy where I live, is not suffering from self-marginalization at all; quite the opposite. The term 'clericalization' is being passed around in caution that the Orthodox church is becoming 'too central' to Russian society today. In other words, the vastly decentralized and highly diversified 'protestant churches' in America offer their own unique national circumstances, which are far from universal around the world. Michael Roberts may contend that things in England are much the same way as they are in America, yet the issue of an Established, State Church presents an obviously distinct situation between the U.K. and America.
David O. wrote the following, which received some criticism from others: "Maybe some of our brothers and sisters from parts of the world that aren't so influenced by rationalism will some day offer some solutions that *we*will need to integrate."

As a person living east of western Europe and outside of both the 'Enlightenment' and 'neo-Enlightenment' tendencies to uplift 'rationality,' which has at times turned into 'rationalism,' I surely agree with David's observation. In fact, this is one of the things that draws me outside of the 'western' sphere of influence; to discover those perspectives that offer solutions the 'west' would benefit to integrate. For anyone interested, Sorokin's "The Crisis of our Age" is a decent place to start. Though it was written in 1941, there are several, even many, prophetic insights that apply to the 'situation' today. Sorokin grew up in a more mystical tradition of Christianity than most 'rationalistic westerners' are challenged to identify with (though they cannot deny that it nevertheless exists). After moving to America, his sociological views adopted the quantitative, empirical style of western academia in general, yet he never gave up his Orthodox roots and
 his philosophy is an integrative one.
Personally, I try to avoid comments like the following, because they are dismissively centrist: "If this be 'colonialism', tough!" One must be sensitive to the generations and peoples who were colonised and who deserve the same dignity as human persons as 'we' do (e.g. I've been speaking with a couple of Indians lately - most interesting to hear views from the formerly colonised!). One must try hard not to elevate their own civilisation as 'the best model,' even scientifically speaking, for others to follow; there is a danger of evolution-IST thinking, i.e. the belief that one's civilisation or culture is 'more evolved,' or 'higher' than others'. In short, the 'progressivist' model of evolutionism in cultural anthropology lead to neo-evolutionary thought to reject civilisational discrimination or condescension.
Thus, as a human-social scholar, I am especially sensitive to the threat of evolution outside of the natural-physical sciences. Maybe in America there is much ignorance and stubbornness wrt 'evolution' about which I have little personal experience other than on-line conversations. There are extra-American discourses about 'the threat of evolution,' however, that are certainly not 'ignorant' or 'subborn' yet which have much to contribute to those Americans who are not privy to the discussions. Since this thread is about non-natural sciences, perhaps it is within conceivability for those reading that 'anti-evolution' in psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology or culturology is indeed a healthy Christian activity, and not just reactionary or 'western, evangelical protestant' (in the negative sense). I'll leave it to you folks to pull evolution back into natural-physical sciences. I am in full agreement with David O. that there is no crisis to the
 'Church universal' caused by evolution.

David O. also wrote:
"One can simply have a "Christian perspective" on neo-classical economics, but one can also have a broader, comprehensive, Christian view of commerce, trade, and justice."

No time to speak about this now, but David and I are reading from the same hymn sheet on this one. Those who would call economics 'amoral' are denying the possibility of integration, rather focussing on disintegration, fragmentation and diversity, rather than on integration, wholism and unity. Philosophy and theology (or religious studies) inevitably come into play in the human-social sciences because we are reflexive beings; that is a condition of our humanity. With morality, economics turns into anarchy and 'crisis' becomes a symbol of the age.
Back to the snow...
Gregory __________________________________________________________________ Yahoo! Canada Toolbar: Search from anywhere on the web, and bookmark your favourite sites. Download it now at

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Received on Sun Jan 4 03:02:02 2009

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