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'Science' in the Social Sciences

2. Introduction

Two works of lasting influence on the theory and practice of the social sciences were Emile Durkheim’s Suicide (1897) and G. Yule’s An Introduction to the Theory of Statistics (1911). Both advanced the thesis that statistical data can be used to identify the causes of socially distributed phenomena. In the middle of the twentieth century, however, several philosophers began to question what had by then become orthodox in social-scientific methodology. In this section, we shall examine some of their arguments and attempt to locate the areas of interest in which they were, and remain, pertinent, and to isolate areas of inquiry where the ‘orthodoxy’ can be insulated against some of their criticisms.

Image of French sociologist Emile Durkheim

Émile Durkheim (1858 – 1917)

Émile Durkheim was a French sociologist whose contributions were instrumental in the formation of sociology and anthropology. His work and editorship of the first journal of sociology helped establish it within academia as an accepted social science. During his lifetime, Durkheim gave many lectures and published numerous sociological studies on subjects such as education, crime, religion, suicide and many other aspects of society. He is considered one of sociology's founding fathers.

Image of British statistician G. Udny Yule

G. Udny Yule (1871 - 1951)

G. Udny Yule was a British statistician who made important contributions to the theory and practice of correlation and association and to time series analysis.


Durkheim, Emile (1897). Suicide: a study in sociology. Trans. John A. Spaulding & George Simpson for the London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1952 edition
Yule, G. U. (1911). An introduction to the theory of statistics. London, UK: C. Griffin and Company.