viewing sociology as a science

Postman Challenges Those Who View Sociology as a Science

In the sociology course you’re taking, one problem you will encounter is understanding how sociologists describe what they do. As social scientists, sociologists like Andersen claim to develop legitimate forms of social research for the purpose of discovering principles that govern human behavior (processes). And they make other claims on behalf of the method they employ in that effort. They claim, in short, to be “doing science”, and that claim has been generally accepted by universities and colleges in their design of curricula students must take to graduate. So although sociology has its detractors, it’s proponents advance many claims as to its importance in the larger scheme of science as western civilization has come to understand it.

In his short essay, Postman appears to be challenging the view that social scientists have of themselves. He states that he “rejects the implication of the phrase ‘social science'”, that [they] do not “do science”. Rather they are, not unlike “moral theologians”, doing something like “storytelling”. If he is serious, Postman must then address what it is that social scientists point to when they insist that they are in fact doing science, such as social research, for example. What exactly is the case that he makes against calling social science a science, and why is he making it? What examples does he use to support his account of the social sciences? If social science is to be understood as “story-telling”, what exactly is the point of telling stories, or is that label supposed to be a criticism of storytelling? If so, is he being critical of all storytelling, or just the sociological way of doing so? What’s he up to anyway?