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Knowledge for What: The Place of Social Science in American Culture

Knowledge for What: The Place of Social Science in American Culture

Copyright Date: 1939
Pages: 278
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  • Book Info
    Knowledge for What: The Place of Social Science in American Culture
    Book Description:

    Contents: Foreword ix; I. Social Science in Crisis 1; II. The Concept of "Culture" 11; III. The Pattern of American Culture 54; IV. The Social Sciences as Tools 114; V. Values and the Social Sciences 180; VI. Some Outrageous Hypotheses 202; Index 251

    Originally published in 1970.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7228-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)

    No one is wise enough or informed enough to venture with assurance upon the large task here undertaken. The only reason for attempting it is that such efforts at appraisal of the present work and potentialities of the social sciences, however faulty in detail, seem clearly to be needed at the present stage in the development of social science and of American culture. And if it was to be undertaken at all, it seemed desirable to push the analysis straight through the network of diffidence and respect for one’s colleagues that tends to shackle frankness within an academic fraternity. For,...

    (pp. 1-10)

    Contemporary social science contains within itself two types of orientation that divide it into two blocs of workers: the scholars and the technicians. Both work within the protective tradition of free intellectual inquiry; and both assume continuity and relevance between their respective realms in the common task of exploring the unknown. Actually they tend to pull apart, the scholar becoming remote from and even disregarding immediate relevancies, and the technician too often accepting the definition of his problems too narrowly in terms of the emphases of the institutional environment of the moment. The gap between the two, while not sharp...

    (pp. 11-53)

    A prevalent mood among sophisticated persons today is a sense of helplessness in the face of the toobigness of the issues we confront. This is no new experience for human beings, however wistfully we moderns may regard the quiet continuities of certain less mobile earlier eras or the earthy immediacies of the prim itive peoples who inhabit the happy isles of the Pacific. Somerset Maugham’s story of “The Fall of Edward Barnard” depicts the desire that men have felt intermittently, as they shuttled about amidst their compulsions, to escape into a world where life can be encompassed by one’s bare...

    (pp. 54-113)

    Within each single culture people tend to learn from each other many common ways of interpreting experience and defining situations. “The diversities in behavior and culture are the results of different interpretations of experience. . . . Different tribes define the same situation and pattern the behavior in precisely opposite ways.”¹ In one culture the young members learn as they grow up that thunder is a sign that the gods are displeased; while in another culture they learn that it is an impersonal electrical disturbance. These different ways of interpreting situations do not affect only single traits and beliefs; they...

    (pp. 114-179)

    A marked characteristic of our culture is its emphasis upon the acquisition of knowledge. This emphasis arises from two things: ours is a culture with an honorific history of thought and deed copiously preserved in readily transmissible form; and, second, our culture recognizes knowledge as useful to do certain things that human beings want done. The presence of an upper class, proud of its traditions and solicitous for the refinements of “polite” learning, has helped to keep alive the scholarly wisdom of the humanities,¹ while the need to cope with problems generated by the world about us has encouraged the...

    (pp. 180-201)

    The rôle of the learned man in earlier times may have been to stabilize custom and to conserve the past; but the social scientist, as his modern counterpart in today’s world of rapid scientific discovery, is bound more closely to the moving front edge of man’s experience. “Personality,” as Santayana vividly phrases it, “is a knife-edge pressed against the future”; and, as instruments by which man works his way ahead in this atmosphere of accelerated change, the social sciences partake of this projective quality in human life. While human behavior exhibits large conformity to habit, one of its most signal...

    (pp. 202-250)

    The controlling factor in any science is the way it views and states its problems. Once stated, a problem can yield no further insights than are allowed by the constricting frame of its original formulation; although, in a negative sense, the data discovered may serve to point the inadequacy of the original frame of reference. The current emphasis in social science upon techniques and precise empirical data is a healthy one; but, as already noted, skilful collection, organization, and manipulation of data are worth no more than the problem to the solution of which they are addressed. If the problem...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 251-268)