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On the Discourse of Social Science



On the Discourse of Social Science


Wignell, Peter F


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This book uses the theory and analytical tools of Systemic Functional Linguistics to examine the discourse of social science from two perspectives. First the prototypical discourse patterns of undergraduate textbooks in the disciplines of Economics, Sociology and Political Science are analysed. The rationale for this analysis is to show how the current orthodoxy of the disciplines is constructed. Second, the book considers the evolution of the discourse patterns of social science. It does this by examining canonical works from the history of the social sciences. As a contrast works from the humanities discipline of moral philosophy from the same time scale are analysed. It is argued that the discourse of the social sciences evolved as a kind of hybrid of the discourses of the humanities and the physical sciences. At the time of writing, Peter Wignell was a senior lecturer in Applied Linguistics in the Faculty of Education, Health and Science at Charles Darwin University. One of Peter's main research interests in the role of language in the creation of specialised knowledge.


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Table of contents

Ch. One -- Ch. Two -- Ch. Three -- Ch. Four: Part One:Systemic functional linguistic work on the discourses of science and humanities; Part 2: Reational for selection of texts and means of analysis -- Ch. Five: The discourse of social science: a synchronic perspective -- Ch. Six: The discourse of social sciences: diachronic analysis. Francis Bacon's Of Fortune (1625) -- Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan (1651) -- John Locke's Of Property -- David Hume's Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding -- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations 1776) -- David Ricardo (1817) The Principles of Politicial Econony and Taxation -- John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism -- Karl Marx's Capital -- Emile Durkheim's The Division of Labour -- Max Weber's The theory of social and economic organisation -- Ch. Seven: Summary, conclusions and speculations.




2004 - Linguistics; 1399 - Other Education; 1699 - Other Studies in Human Society; Language; Politics & Society

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Charles Darwin University Press (CDU Press)

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x, 224 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

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9780980292350; 980292352


Attribution International-NoDerivative 4.0 (CC-BY-ND 4.0)

Copyright owner

Wignell Peter F.



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218 Chapter Seven able to provide answers in numbers. In spite of its technicality, the use of mathematics enables economics to give concrete, tangible answers (whether right or wrong) in the form of numbers: it can put a dollar value on things. Providing a more or less unproblematised analysis of capitalism, aligning itself with an ideology of liberal democracy via capitalism and being scientific assures economics of its status. In a similar position would be psychology, which by aligning itself with both science and with medicine (itself in part a nexus between biological science and technology), has status in explaining individual behaviour. Psychology, in terms of method, is closer to the physical and biological sciences than is economics: it is, in general, both experimental and mathematical. Like economics it has also penetrated everyday life more than the other social sciences. In sport, for instance, you psych someone out, you dont soc them out. Sociology, on the other hand, deals with its subject matter in a way which is less tangible. Where economics can, in the end, turn phenomena into numbers, sociology construes phenomena at their least tangible, as abstract technicality. It reconstrues everyday experience in the manner most removed from everyday experience. In addition to this sociology is often a critical and dissenting voice. This can in part be traced to the prevailing social conditions in France at the time that sociology evolved. The intellectual climate in France tended to be more one of dissent than in England (Swingewood, 1984). Bourgeois ascendancy happened later in France, where the same liberal philosophical and political ideologies that were dominant in England were in conflict with the prevailing regime in France. In addition, sociology emerged as a discipline in troubled times in France, between the French Revolution and the Franco-Prussian War, and continued to evolve in the reconstructed Third Republic. Thus sociology took root in times of turmoil. Dissenting voices continue in sociology, especially Marxist and postmodernist voices, perhaps, in part, helping to account for the more marginal position of sociology in the west today (except perhaps in France). Political science finds itself in a bind. In its older normative and institutional perspectives it finds itself in the position of, somewhat redundantly, reinforcing the unassailable: liberal democracy. In its more recent, and more dissenting Marxist, feminist and discourse theory perspectives, it projects marginalised voices, making itself less likely to be heard. In addition, political science construes experience at a level of technicality and abstraction far removed from everyday experience. The discussion above has been a speculative attempt to account for the positioning of discourses from the point of view of their relationship with prevailing ideologies. It has been argued that the central or marginal position of a discourse or a discipline within a discourse cannot be accounted for by anything inherent in that discourse but rather this positioning can be interpreted in relation to a broader phylogenetic, ideological perspective. The discussion has been brief, coming as it does in a Macro New towards the end of this text but hopefully it points to a few possibilities for future research. 21131 text.indd 218 17/5/07 11:42:31 AM

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