Adorno T On the Logic of the Social Sciences

[This is a reply to the Popper article that precedes it. Many of the specific arguments are found in Adorno's introduction. Briefly, Popper's approach leads to many social issues unexamined in his focus on logical refutation and method, including the contradictory nature of the events being studied, and the implicit notion of totality. Of course his notion of open society is a liberal one, and his description of the scientific community is idealist. In what follows, I have selected some points and quotes which extend and elaborate this argument].

Sociology tries to clarify and relate events by abstraction from material contradictions. How this is done in positivism needs examining  [not only are contradictions suppressed, but abstraction avoids the issue of essences].

'... in industrial market societies by no means everything... can be simply deduced from its principle [official ideologies like liberal freedom]. Such societies contain within themselves countless non-capitalist enclaves... At issue here is whether in order to perpetuate itself  [capitalist society] needs such enclaves. Their specific irrationality complements as it were that of the structure as a whole. Social totality does not lead a life of its own over and above that which it unites and of which it is in its turn composed' (107) . The concept of society is needed, but the issue is a relation of parts to wholes. This is ignored in pleas for middle-range theories  [this is Adorno 's term for the focus on specific issues and disputes advocated by Popper. It is a deliberate reference to the work of Merton, maybe as a kind of insult?]

'One would fetishise science if one radically separated the immanent problems from the real ones which are weakly reflected in its formalisms' (109). Social reality is contradictory and adequate 'knowledge is guaranteed by the possibility of grasping the contradiction as necessary and thus extending rationality to it' (109).

Popper does seem to recognise that research is done in institutions for career purposes [but, presumably, does not follow the implications through -- that these institutions also take part in capitalist social relations etc] (110).

'By no means the last of the necessary tasks of epistemology... would be to reflect on the actual process of cognition instead of [imposing a model or a methodology]'  (111).

Criticism also presupposes a solution or implies it, so sociology can never just be self-critical but must criticise society in order to be adequate to its object (114).

Popper's limited ventures into the sociology of knowledge [the bits on 'anthropology', and the bits about the role of illusion] are uncritical. There is no attempt to see ideology as socially necessary illusion. This implies a relativism. Popper abandons the attempt to distinguish between true and false consciousness and therefore abandons objectivity itself  [which should include a discussion of how truth can become distorted].

'The insight into society as a totality... [means]... that all the moments active in this totality... [are not]... reducible one to another, but must be incorporated in knowledge; it cannot permit itself to be terrorised by the academic division of labour' (120). The role of the social and experience needs to be prioritised, as Durkheim said when defining social facts as constant and so on.

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