Background Paper: One Social Science or many?

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Opportunity to reflect on the nature and the prospect of these disciplines. The demise of neoclassical macroeconomics and the emergence of behavioural economics suggest that the social sciences ought to lower their ambitions, to focus on the accumulation of small-scale mechanisms rather than on the development of grand theory. Rational-choice theory, while useful in specific domains, can no longer claim to be the unifying theory for the social sciences. In fact, there is not and probably will never be one unifying theory, only a toolbox of mechanisms. A common language for the social sciences may yet be created if all social scientists receive a thorough grounding in the classics of historical writing.


Jon Elster

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