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Thornton Hall

The Revolution Will Be Kuhnian.

Why Social Science Isn’t “just a different approach”

In comments sections lately I’ve been in a few discussions where I assert that political science, for example, is wrong because it doesn’t reckon with what we know about human social behavior. Others say, “those are just two different subjects. One doesn’t contradict the other.”

In a specific case this was about a Vox article where a bunch of political science professors tried to figure out if politicians listened to their constituents by comparing legislation with survey results about public policy. 

Democrats Represent Middle Class... 

This is just confusion, I say. It assumes constituents *have* opinions about public policy, and it assumes further that that it works the same way regardless of subject, such that opinions on Medicare are formed the same way as opinions on taxes or war. In reality, we know that people join a political tribe based on emotional judgements. We also know those judgements are very rational in some cases and less so in others. Abstract ideas about economic policy are an example of the latter: we simply adopt the policy annuncuated by our tribal elites. [Too lazy to look up the study right now but maybe I will later.]

Is my tribal analysis irrelevant to political science because it is an insight from anthropology? Fundamentally, I think it’s Enlightenment Newtonian social science (political science) versus a Darwinian understanding of human behavior (evolutionary biology as adopted by sociology and anthropology). 

Like this page from the dead tree book I’m reading: War In Human Civilization by Azar Gat: 



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