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Open the social sciences: To whom and for what?

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The Gulbenkian Commission Report (1996) on the restructuring of the social sciences disavowed anachronistic disciplinary divisions, Western universalism and methodological positivism, and instead proposed the unification of all scientific knowledge under what it called pluralistic universalism. It exposed its own scholasticism, however, in failing to address for whom and for what is scientific knowledge produced. With these two questions as points of departure, this article develops a disciplinary division of labour, and thereby distinguishes among professional, policy, public and critical knowledge. Examining the form and relations among these four types of knowledge allows one to recognise the real basis of divergences among disciplines, and within disciplines across nations and history. A global perspective on the social sciences today examines the specific responses to market fundamentalism from different disciplines and different places in the world system.

Keywords: Gulbenkian Commission; critical sociology; policy sociology; professional sociology; public sociology; social science

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of California.

Publication date: 2008-05-17

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