Narrative and Social Science: A Response to Gregory Reck

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Association for Interdisciplinary Studies


While his appeal for open narratives arising from dialogic encounters between scientist and subject has much to commend it. Reck appears to be abandoning the search for causal explanation and useful generalization. Further, neither mathematical models nor abstract categories are in themselves dangerous. Much depends on how data so collected and organized is applied. In any case, both quantitative work and abstract analysis help protect the scientist from bias and imprecision. In the minds of powerful grant-awarders, narrative accounts are merely preparatory to what is "real" - i.e., statistical presentation. Thus, despite its many detractors, positivism remains powerful and widespread. Reck's enthusiasm for ethnologies that qualify as creative art overlooks the fact that social science's quest for systematic comprehension means that it cannot be a literary enterprise. Reck (and Jones) do not take seriously enough problems of falsifiability. When narratives compete with one another, what criteria or procedures allow us to test them? Narrativists complain about the aridity of technical social science, yet they themselves seem about to produce another inaccessible theoretical literature.




Nixon II, Howard L. "Narrative and Social Science: A Response to Gregory Reck." Issues in Integrative Studies 11 (1993): 75-82.