Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons
Publication Year: 1989
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Title Page, Copyright Page
In 1982 the Russell Sage Foundation, one of America's oldest general purpose foundations, celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary. To commemorate this long commitment to the support and dissemination of social science research, we departed from our customary publishing...
Why do other people's books behave like docile marionettes? Mine keep playing Pinocchio. They take on characters of their own and resist correction. This one, for instance. When I sat down to write it, the book was supposed to end up mild-mannered, studious, and balanced...
1. Intellectual Equipment
We bear the nineteenth century like an incubus. Inspect the map of almost any American city. Notice the telltale marks: rail lines slicing one section from another; a speculator's grid, with its numbered rectilinear streets and avenues repeating themselves to the horizon...
2. Four Pernicious Postulates
The nineteenth century's legacy to twentieth century social scientists resembles an old house inherited from a rich aunt: worn, overdecorated, cluttered, but probably salvageable. Appraising the old structure, we will want to save the belief in intelligible patterns of...
3. Four More Pernicious Postulates
No doubt the marked successes of evolutionary models in natural history encouraged nineteenth-century social theorists to adopt differentiation as a master principle of social change. The specialization of work, the subdivision of governments, the extension of commodity...
How can we eradicate the pernicious postulates? Two approaches, one direct and the other indirect, promise to do the job. Directly, we should track the beasts to their dens, and battle them on their own grounds. We should look hard at the logical and evidential...
5. Individual Comparisons
Comparing large social units in order to identify their singularities has been with us a long time. When Montesquieu compared different parts of the world with respect to climate, topography, social life, and politics, he sometimes appeared to be seeking principles of variation...
6. Universalizing Comparisons
For the first half of the twentieth century, social scientists often did their theorizing in the form of standardized "natural histories" of different social phenomena. Individual careers, family lives, communities of a certain type, social movements, revolutions and civilizations...
7. Finding Variation
If we believed textbooks and learned essays on the subject, almost all valid comparison would be variation-finding: comparison establishing a principle of variation in the character or intensity of a phenomenon having more than one form by examining systematic differences...
8. Encompassing Comparisons
Encompassing comparisons begin with a large structure or process. They select locations within the structure or process and explain similarities or differences among those locations as consequences of their relationships to the whole. In everyday life, people use encompassing...
In the light of any formal logic of comparison, most of the inquiries we have been examining are ungainly indeed. On the scale of continents, national states, and regions, the matching of instances with each other only provides the grossest of natural experiments. Therein...
Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 1989
OCLC Number: 835515703
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