Critical Acclaim

1987 Human Development  
It has become socially obligatory among my students to protest that they are not positivists. Yet few are able to articulate any recognizable post-positivist position, much less identify that standpoint from which they are so critical of positivism. John vol. 24, No. 6] first brought to my attention that such protests, without being grounded in some way, are likely ideological and may even derive from the same ideology they are intended to criticize. Thus, confident in the abilities of my
more » ... ts, I have been recommending that they become hcquainted with Quentin Skinner's grand tour of the grand hermeneutic, structuralist, postempiricist, de-constructionist, and otherwise post-positivist theories. Skinner identifies two major concerns underlying much that may be characterized as postpositivist. The first of these is an extension of Dilthey's arguments that the natural sciences, as traditionally conceived, do not provide an appropriate or exclusive methodological model for the social sciences. This concern is reflected and transcended in the writings of Wittgenstein, Gadamer, Feyerabend, Derrida, Haber-mas, and others. Chapters on Gadamer, Derrida, and Habermas are included in this volume. The second major concern is with the moral implications of constructing a theory of society based on the positivist program. Kuhn's skepticism regarding the rationality of science is an important foundation for this concern, a skepticism I understood better after reading Barry Barnes' chapter on Kuhn than after reading Kuhn's major text many years ago. Habermas, Laing, Foucault, Rorty, Rawls, and others have more directly challenged the possibility of a social philosophy constructed upon facts known for certain and un-shaped by particular historical conditions. Skinner has included chapters on Foucault and Rawls. The volume concludes with four exemplars of grand theories: Habermas's grounding of rationality in the ideal speech situation (Anthony Giddens provides one of the best introductions to this difficult writer); Althusser's emphasis upon the deterministic features of Marx's work; Levi-Strauss's revelation of the determining influence of social and linguistic structures; and Braudel's descriptions of the significance for history not only of economies and institutions but also of climate and geography. Skinner avoids the problems of a single-authored survey of grand theories, which would be open to the charges of omission and bias, and an edited volume of the theorists' own writings, which would fail to provide the context, distance, and comparisons needed for understanding. The present volume provides informed and readable accounts of each grand theory in appropriate contexts, as well as raising reasonable concerns and criticisms along the way. This is the sort of grand tour one looks forward to embarking upon. Smith, L.
doi:10.1159/000273177 fatcat:kakkf6wkgnha5mj67eecokopke