The Case For Exploratory Social Sciences

Discussion Paper by Geoff Mulgan: “…Here I make the case for a new way of organising social science both in universities and beyond through creating sub-disciplines of ‘exploratory social science’ that would help to fill this gap. In the paper I show:
• how in the 18th and 19th centuries social sciences attempted to fuse interpretation and change
• how a series of trends – including quantification and abstraction – delivered advances but also squeezed out this capacity for radical design
• how these also encouraged some blind alleys for social science, including what I call ‘unrealistic realism’ and the futile search for eternal laws

I show some of the more useful counter-trends, including evolutionary thinking, systems models and complexity that create a more valid space for conscious design. I argue that now, at a time when we badly need better designs and strategies for the future, we face a paradoxical situation where the people with the deepest knowledge of fields are discouraged from systematic and creative exploration of the future, while those with the appetite and freedom to explore often lack the necessary knowledge…(More)”.