Sociology

Published

Book Section

© 1993 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Productive exchange between disciplines faces a paradox. Modern fields of enquiry are large, differentiated, and always growing. This means their boundaries are extensive, and there are many areas of potential contact between them. We are spoiled for shared topics and overlapping questions. Yet differentiation also entails a high degree of specialization at any particular point, and so traffic across disciplinary borders is less common than it ought to be. The trouble with interdisciplinary work is that you need disciplines in order to do it, and a discipline is a kind of exclusive conversation. Over time, participants come to share reference points and assumptions. The conversation gets more involved. Instead of looking outside, disciplines will reproduce for themselves (in miniature and unsatisfactorily) tools and concepts that are better developed in cognate fields. Economists produce a working psychology, sociologists make a sketch of historical development, political philosophers know some stylized facts about social institutions. This process is guaranteed to produce straw men and errors of fact, but it is also inevitable because the ability to assume away some topics as settled or irrelevant is a precondition for any successful discipline.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Healy, K

Published Date

  • January 1, 2008

Book Title

  • A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy

Start / End Page

  • 88 - 117

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9781405136532

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/9781405177245.ch4

Citation Source

  • Scopus