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Title: An evolutionary analysis of evolutionary sociology
Author: O'Malley, Maureen Anne
ISNI:       0000 0001 2449 0751
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2001
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The general topic of this research is scientific success and the form it might take in sociology. The recent resurgence of evolutionary thinking across the social sciences has potentially positive implications for sociology and its understanding of social change. To evaluate this evolutionary turn in relation to sociology, I focus on David Hull's evolutionary analysis of scientific change and success, which claims that a social mechanism lies at the heart of the selection processes that occur in science. What is good for the individual is what is good for science as a whole, he argues, and it is descent that matters more in analyzing this process than conceptual similarity. Hull believes such an evolutionary account makes sense of both success and failure, though he doubts that sociology can be considered a science. My contention is that by applying his evolutionary analysis to evolutionary sociology, not only can his claims be tested and modified, but also that insights into the sociology of knowledge will be generated. To achieve this, I examine a large range of texts and commentary on evolutionary theory and sociology from the early nineteenth century until the recent present. All of these theories of evolution exhibit a pattern of problematic conceptualization, which includes special categories of human action, developmentalism, and inadequate methods. Despite each generation of evolutionary sociology recognizing the pattern as producing invalid theory, these flaws are consistently replicated. I conclude that such findings suggest, first of all, that sociology is not organized collectively but is an individualistic discipline; secondly, that Hull's evolutionary framework needs major reconstruction around the areas of fitness (mere reproductive success, as in evolutionary sociology's case) and fit (of theory to evidence, accompanied by the reconstruction of concepts that do not fit the empirical findings -a process that tends not to happen in evolutionary sociology); and thirdly, that the evolutionary turn in the social sciences offers an opportunity for a reorganization of approach in sociology and its interdisciplinary engagements.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Science; Epistemology; Systems