Den 8 oktober lägger jag fram ett embryo till vad som ska bli tredje delen i min avhandling (av fem). Seminariet för politisk teori har bjudit in mig och nedan följer ett abstract om vad jag ska säga:
The notion of a ‘public opinion’ has been a central problem in modern political philosophy, at least since Adam Smith and Jeremy Bentham. However, only as the social sciences started measuring it, the public could become an integral part in political decision-making. The public and the public opinion as a meaningful political actor is thus a recent innovation and demands further attention by the social sciences and the philosophy of science.
The point of departure for this essay can be condensed into a single statement: Epistemic practice actively constructs metaphysical entities, such as the public, or the public opinion.
In order to further reflect upon this problem I will discuss the controversy between Emile Durkheim and Gabriel Tarde. Here I will argue that epistemic practice ended the controversy, since at the time only Durkheim’s sociology could be broken down to measurable facts (positivites), whereas Tarde’s theories were unable to fulfil the contemporary criteria for becoming a science.
Furthermore, I will elaborate how this phenomenon is actualised in the social sciences of today. By drawing on some of my previous research on the Swedish quantitative social sciences I will describe how the practice of quantification through survey research has implications for the “physique of the public”. Also I will hint to alternatives, which only have been actualised in qualitative methods, but may find other possible means of quantification with recent computer technology and digital data.
The aim of this reflection is to contribute to a better understanding of how concepts, methods and data work within the social sciences. Also, by taking apart the “epistemic machines” of our sciences, we can re-assemble them in new ways in the future.