Theodor Adorno On the Logic of the Social Sciences

social

 

Methods do not rest upon methodological ideals but rather upon reality. Popper implicitly acknowledges this in the thesis concerning the priority of the problem. When he establishes that the quality of social scientific achievement stands in an exact relationship to the significance or to the interest of its problems, then unquestionably one can detect here the awareness of an irrelevance to which countless sociological investigations are condemned in that they follow the primacy of the method and not that of the object. They either wish to develop methods further for their own sake or, from the outset, they so select objects that they can be treated with already available methods. When Popper talks about significance or interest one can sense the gravity of the matter to be dealt with. It would only have to be qualified by the fact that it is not always possible to judge a priori the relevance of objects. Where the categorical network is so closely woven that much of that which lies beneath is concealed by conventions of opinion, including scientific opinion, then eccentric phenomena which have not yet been incorporated by this network at times take on an unexpected gravity. Insight into their composition also throws light upon what counts as the core domain but which often is not. This scientific-theoretical motive was surely involved in Freud’s decision to concern himself with the ‘fragments of the world of appearance’ [Abhub der Urscheinungswelt]. Similarly, it proved to be fruitful in Simmel’s sociology when, mistrustful of the systematic totality, he immersed himself in such social specifics as the stranger or the actor. Nor would one be able to dogmatize about the demand for problem relevancy; to a large extent, the selection of research objects is legitimated by what the sociologist can read from the object which he has selected. This should not, however, provide an excuse for the countless projects merely carried out for the good of one’s academic career, in which the irrelevance of the object happily combines with the pedestrian mentality of the research technician.

 

From:

Theodor W. Adorno. “On The Logic of the Social Sciences”, in Theodor W. Adorno, Hans Albert, Ralf Dahrendorf, etc. The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology, trans. Glen Adey and David Frisby. London: Hermann Luchterhand Verlag; 1977, pp. 105-22.

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