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Review article

Survival Guide to Grand Theorizing and the Central Dogma of Social Science

Shing-Chung Jonathan Yam ; The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

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page 199-218

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Grand theorizing and empirical (quantitative or qualitative)
research are often separately conducted. In this paper, the separation
in question is traced from scholars' differential observance
of the yardsticks of the philosophical, scientific and literary/historical
methods respectively. The philosophical method relies on deduction
and develops into grand theorizing by adding assumptions
stemming from life experience, leading to conceptual
fluidity. Contrarily, the scientific method relies on experiments,
which produce more determinable outcomes as asserted by
Popper's (1959) falsificationism. The literary/historical method
shares this commitment to determinacy by providing in-depth understanding
of space time-specific events/meanings. The roles of
grand theorizing and empirical research are reviewed: grand
theorizing provides categorical schemes, organizes assumptions
into perspectives, uncovers hidden assumptions and generates arguments,
while empirical research facilitates contextualized comparisons
and generates theory. The other side of the story is then
presented with the Central Dogma of Social Science, which limits
the scope and determinacy of any social understanding with an
inverse relationship. The central dogma constrains the possibility
of social knowledge and, through institutionalized practice such as
the acceptance of journal articles or staff promotion, academic
development. For grand theorizing to 'survive', it needs to identify
and reembrace its yardstick, which could then lead to confident
communication with results generated by other methods.


philosophy of social science, epistemology, sociology of knowledge, scope, determinacy

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