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'A Profound Crisis of Purpose in Social Science'

Among the many social scientists who entered the discipline in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it is easy to observe a fundamental disenchantment with the profession. For many of these people, the attraction of social science lay in its potential relevance to the process of social transformation, whether they conceived of it in terms of radical political change or individual self-realization or "liberation." They looked back upon the 1950s and 1960s, when social scientists were engaged in conduc

Ian Taylor
Among the many social scientists who entered the discipline in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it is easy to observe a fundamental disenchantment with the profession. For many of these people, the attraction of social science lay in its potential relevance to the process of social transformation, whether they conceived of it in terms of radical political change or individual self-realization or "liberation." They looked back upon the 1950s and 1960s, when social scientists were engaged in conducting surveys, offering economic advice, and other activities that were clearly understood to be a part of the larger project of social reconstruction.

That age of moral and political consensus in social science is dead and gone. Today there is a profound crisis of purpose in social science and related disciplines. The onset of the economic recession of the late 1970s, and the emergence in many Western societies of a self-consciously reactionary...

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