A science of life

April 9, 1999

Gregor McLennan's definition of the task of the human sciences as being to develop "substantive insights and ideological bearings" is partial, inadequate and too easily an excuse for casual anecdote and prescriptive inference.

What about research? Sociology is nothing if it is not an empirical subject in which theories are tested rigorously against data, whether quantitative, qualitative or historical.

Social measurement is a prime objective, even though it poses many difficulties. Flirtation with cultural studies is no solution, reminding one of the sociologist whom Laurie Taylor satirised for advertising his wares driving around in a van that had painted on its side "Never Knowingly Understood".

Martin Bulmer. Professor of sociology. University of Surrey.

to read this article.

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments