File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1998/bhaskar.9802, message 44

Subject: BHA: Need Help Fast
Date: Sun, 22 Feb 1998 09:17:42 -0500


About a week ago I found out about a new NSF program funding mid-career
methodological training. I have a sabbatical scheduled for AY98-9 and have
been working at getting funding to take a full-year sabbatical. The NSF
program seems ideal for a project I've had in mind for some time, so I'm
applying to it. Unfortunately, the deadline is March 1 and, given that I
just found out about the program, I don't have much time. I'm hoping someone
on this list can help me out.

Basically, the project involves drawing out critical realism's implications
for (1) social research methods and (2) planning. As for (1), I know people
like Sayer and others have done this in broad terms. I'm interested in doing
it with a more detailed, narrow focus on specific methods. For instance,
under what circumstances does statistical hypothesis testing make sense?
What about surveys, participant observation, etc.? Can CR add something to
these techniques that improves them? Since most of these techniques have
strong empiricist pedigree, does CR's critique of empiricism mean we have to
throw them away? Can we salvage anything from them? Can we come up with CR
criteria with which to evaluate these forms of research? I know that
ultimately evaluation of scientific arguments involves judgement, but I'd
like to be a bit more specific and offer some guidance as to how we should
exercise such judgement.

One thing implicit in CR, but not emphasized enough (IMHO) is the importance
of history and space. Since CR argues that individual sciences have to be
appropriate to their objects, the social sciences have to be historical and
spatial because human society is eminently geo-historical. This brings up my
second focus, planning. If we conceive of society as contingent, with
underlying real structures having causal powers, then in what sense can
humanity shape its future? I found RB's discussion in Reclaiming Reality
unsatisfactory because he seemed basically to argue that knowing causal
powers would allow us to act and shape our future. This ignores the fact
that we act within geo-historically circumscribed situations, that we
ourselves may unknowingly be driven in our actions by underlying causal
powers, that we often act in opposition to others who may use the same
knowledge to thwart our purposes, and that the resolution of such conflict
often modifies existing structures and their causal powers and generates new
ones. This I take as CR's implications for planning, and I would like to
explore them as well.

I sent the note below to the CCR address, but I'm not really sure if CCR is
much more than a web site. I'm sending this note out to the Bhaskar list and
asking you (1) what is the institutional status of CCR, (2) assuming CCR
either does not have the appropriate institutional status I need, can you
suggest another place that I could contact and quickly arrange for an
affiliation? The ideal place would be one with an active group of people
working on CR and where these themes could be fruitfully investigated. If
I'm successful with the NSF grant, I'd bring my own funding. Probably all
I'd need is office space, library privileges, and a collegial atmosphere.

Suggestions (and offers) of places for affiliation would be most
appreciated. However, I do need to act fast. Proposals are due by the
beginning of March, and at a minimum I'd want to include a fax copy of a
letter of invitation.

Thanks for your help.

		Marsh Feldman

-----Original Message-----
From: Marshall Feldman []
Sent: Friday, February 20, 1998 7:41 AM
Subject: Assistance


I browsed the CCR web site trying to find out CCR's institutional
affiliation and the people affiliated with it. So far, I've been
unsuccessful. So I'm sending this note to you in the hope it's the right
address. If it's not, perhaps you can suggest someone else to contact.

I'm planning a sabbatical for next year. One thing I'm very interested in
doing is applying CR to what's been the main focus of my teaching for the
past ten years or so: social research methods and planning. It seems to me
that CR has important implications for how we think about statistics,
surveys, participant observation, etc. While some people have touched on
this in general (e.g., Sayer's "Method in Social Science"), I don't know of
anyone who has done an adequate job with the specific details of social
research. I would like to work on this, perhaps writing a textbook on social
research methods from a CR perspective or just a book discussing social
research methods in general.

The second interest concerns planning. While professional planning may seem
pedestrian, it does raise the fundamental question of how humanity can
consciously shape its future. One might ask, "What must the world be like
for planning to be possible?" If the answer is different from Bhaskar's
answer to his similar question, then where are we? Perhaps another way to go
would be to accept his answer vis-a-vis science, and then ask, "If the
world's this way, then how can we plan?" It seems to me there's a very rich
web of issues here, and I'd like to spend time addressing them.

As a sabbatical, my home university will fund me for half a year. So, I'm
looking for another half year of funding. The U.S. National Science
Foundation has a program for mid-career methodological education, and I'm
planning to apply for the grant (closing date is 1 March). I need some place
to host me while I do the work. Ideally, I'd affiliate with the CCR which
itself is affiliated with a university (are you?). If this is not possible,
I'd want to affiliate with a university center that's strong in the subject.

Is this the sort of thing CCR can do? Would you be willing to act as host?
If so, I think I just need a letter from you saying so. If not, could you
please suggest someone to contact who might be appropriate?

Thanks very much.

					Marsh Feldman

Marshall Feldman, Associate Professor
Graduate Curriculum in Community Planning and Area Development	401/874-5953
The University of Rhode Island					401/874-5511 (FAX)
94 West Alumni Avenue, Suite 1; Kingston, RI 02881-0806

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