I desperately wanted this book to provide a way forward; to show how social science might one day be able to accurately predict human behaviour. After finishing this book in 4 days however, I can confidently say that I have never felt so disappointed after reading a book. Let me explain...
The author starts by slating contemporary social science in all its forms, arguing that it should be more like the natural sciences in every conceivable way. Of course, this would be fantastic if it were possible, but at no point whatsoever does he provide any evidence as to how this would be achieved. Instead, he relies on abstract notions of how this can be done such as 'sociologists should be less politically biased', or 'social scientists need to be more empirically minded'.
The contradictions in this book are laughable, with arguments against current interpretivist sociology frequent but entirely unfounded and unsubstantial. Indeed, after providing a 'critique', the author then turns his hand to 'solutions' which include the following (this is no joke):
- 'We must watch out for resistance to knowledge' (in this paragraph he actually means 'resistance to anyone questioning positivist methodologies');
-'We must draw strength from the analogy with natural science' (at one point he argues that there exist no good reasons why society cannot be studied in the same way as natural science. The complexities of society, with its hidden number of unpredictable, historically-informed and culturally driven influences, are simply batted away in 6 pages of unbelievably simplistic 'counter-arguments');
I don't think I even need to provide an explanation beneath the next two - the vague simplicity is almost insulting:
-'We must pursue a methodology of inquiry that will help us learn from our data';
-'We must never lose sight of our ultimate goal: to discover the causal factors behind human action'.
Having such high hopes for this book I am bitterly disappointed. After finishing it, the best way I can describe it would be as basic, reductory, short, vague, uninformed and a complete waste of money.
If you want to better understand social behaviour have a read of Criminal Identities and Consumer Culture
. It provides a far more digestible and comprehensive explanation to societal issues, covering the complex intersection of economics, politics, sociology and psychology. It completely overshadows this dreadful excuse for an academic text.