2-3-14 Notes - Social Science

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University of California - Berkeley
Robin Einhorn

Social Science • The idea that there is a science of society as opposed to religious explanations • Not only the idea that you could use science to understand society but that you should use it and that you could use it to shape responses, esp public policy • Had a lot of different permutations. • The notion that the American economy and its tremendous growth allowed all people the opportunity to rise up. o Horatio Alger - wrote childrens books about kids who practices the virtues of clean living and hard work and then has a chance to display his awesomeness to a rich guy and then he goes from rags to riches… o Social mobility! I. Liberalism • In the late 19 th century, it meant something very different than today’s. o Classical liberalism – the key idea is that the market is self- regulating so the best public policy is to let the market do its thing, not let govt touch it. (Laisse Fair) o FICTION: The idea that there can be a market that isn’t regulated by govt. without govt, there is no property. Really they can’t be divorced. • People who believed in this lived in cities, urban, middle-class, well- educated, usually republican (though not exclusively). • American Social Science Association – founded 1865 for the purpose of discussing education, health, economics in order to devise appropriate public policies. o Thought American society was framed by natural laws that if you figured them out, you could propose scientific legislation, anyone else who tried to influence market (govt) was promoting class legislation. o Doomed to futility. (See Harper’s Weekly April 30, 1887)  Special interests – no one is getting anywhere o Natural laws worked out in a super elitist ways.  (eg. Farmers wanted to regulate the rrs with Granger Laws which were supposed to regulate rates and stop discriminating blahh. Liberalists were like, this is class legislation; supply and demand! Farmers asked why workers had such power – because they organized to have more bargaining power.) o The idea of natural law v class legislation was really in the eye of the beholder. II. Social Darwinism • Evolution – Charles Darwin – 1859 – Origin of Species • Herbert Spencer tried to apply Darwin’s theory to the social world. o Spencer said “survival of the fittest” • Society develops through the competition • You shouldn’t interfere with natural laws – its unavoidable and good if the weak get pushed to the side and cant reproduce! • What kind of human behaviors are deemed natural? • William Graham Sumner – Yale professor – competition in society is natural – he wasn’t squeamish about defining who is fitter – the millionares were the best. • Any effort to allow equality is bad because it rewarded those who don’t deserve it. • Virtue and hard work was the only explanation for millionares wealth and power – class relations, rich and poor. • Others applied it to race..! o “The role of survival of the fittest as well as to the animal kingdom” • Social science developed in response to social Darwinism. III. Social Science A. Amateurs to professionals • ASSA to university depts.. (ASSA had no training, though well educated.) • Henry George – born in PA, moved to SF, watched SF in the gold-rush era – Wrote PROGRESS AND POVERTY o What fascinated him was the impact of economic growth on land value, esp the role of real estate spectators o
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