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12. Philosophy of Social Science

MARTIN HOLLIS


Subject Philosophy, Sociology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631219088.2002.00017.x


Extract

If the climate of Africa became suddenly cooler and wetter, the social effects would be enormous. Agriculture would change character as some crops became easier to grow and others harder. As the demand for both sorts shifted, some people and groups would become richer and others poorer. As some rose in social esteem and others fell, social roles and relations would change. With shifts in status and the distribution of power, political effects would start to emerge. We need not speculate further to see that whole societies could be transformed. Such changes would not simply be dictated by the change in climate, however large. What happened would depend on how people and groups responded. Some millet farmers would fare better than other millet farmers, and some kinds of farmer better than other kinds. In different places, traders, middlemen, bureaucrats or holders of public office would play different parts. Again, without speculating further, we can see that any uniformities in the response would have to lie deep below the surface of events and that, even so, local conditions and individual initiatives would matter. Observers trying to make sense of events would have, very broadly, two directions of approach. One would be to connect the variety of reaction with differences in social structure and organization, thereby presuming that there are social systems, whose responses to pressure ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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