The Social Sciences as Ideologically Loaded, Abstract Constructs (or, The Social Sciences as Leaky Sieves)

Ostensibly engaged in the study of human behavior, the various [social scientific] disciplines parcel out the subject among themselves. Each then proceeds to set up a model, seemingly a means to explain “hard,” observable facts, yet actually an ideologically loaded scheme geared to a narrow definition of subject matter. Such schemes provide self-fulfilling answers, since phenomena other than those covered by the model are ruled out of the court of specialized discourse. If the models leak like sieves, it is then argued that this is either because they are merely abstract constructs and not expected to hold empirical water, or because troublemakers have poked holes into them. The specialized social sciences, having abandoned a holistic perspective, thus come to resemble the Danae sisters of classical Greek legend, ever condemned to pour water into their separate bottomless containers. 

From Eric C. Wolf, Europe and the People Without History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010 [1982]), 10-11.

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