Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Anti-Social Science: Social Science as Oxymoron

Prof Calum Paton.

The paper revisits different perspectives and 'paradigms' in and of social science, in order to ask if any consensus is possible between those who view social science's purpose as to explain reality, promote greater objective understanding and even (normatively) promote progress, and those who come from relativist traditions, including the modern 'isms' of post-modernism and post-structuralism.

Different perspectives reviewed include those of Marx, Kuhn, and Foucault.

The relevance of the debate for ethical theory and political theory respectively is presented.

A view of social theory which avoids the label science, incorporates the indeterminacy of human cation yet seeks to re-establish an absolutist basis for ethics (and normative political theory) is proposed.


Prof Calum Paton  (United Kingdom)
Professor and Director, Centre for Health, Keele University, UK
Centre for Health Planning and Management; also political theory
Keele University, UK

Published widely in politics, political theory and health policy (including World, Class,Britain:Political Economy, Political Theory and Public Policy, Macmillan, 2000; Competition and Planning in the NHS: The Consequences of the Reforms, Stanley Thornes, 1998; Ethics and Politics, Avebury, 1992; US Health Politics, Avebury, 1990); Editor, International Journal of Health Planning and Management, (John Wiley); Director-Designate, Centre for Health Planning and Management, Keele University, UK; Interested in cross-disciplinary work involving philosophy, social theory and politics

  • Social theory
  • Ethical theory
  • Political theory
  • Social science
  • Marxism
  • Post-modenism

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)