File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1998/bhaskar.9802, message 50

Subject: RE: BHA: Need Help Fast
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998 18:10:10 -0000


I think that the work you propose to do on research methodology does address
a real need within CR scholarship; I hope you are successful with your
proposal.  My thoughts on the discussion re statistical methods are that
perhaps non-inferential statistics can play a part in a quantitative CR
approach.  I have in mind techniques like multi-dimensional scaling and
cluster analysis.  

The assumptions underlying these techniques seem to go well with a CR view
of social ontology.  They make no distributional assumptions which would run
counter to the idea that closure doesn't exist in the social world.
Secondly, and more interestingly, they aim at identifying *similarities*
between and within data rather than with the amount of variation in a
dependent variable contingent on the behaviour of independents.  

In the field of Social Psychology there is some interesting work being done
within the loose rubric of 'social representations' which might be
interesting as far as methods are concerned.  Breakwell and Canter's (1993)
'Empirical approaches to social representations' has some good stuff on
multi-dimensional scaling and other non-inferential methods.

I apologise if this sounds obvious to researchers using these methods
already (they are, of course, not uncommon), but it does strike me that as
quant techniques go they are (or could be) more in the spirit of CR than
some others. 

BTW, Andy, I think Tony Lawson talks about 'demi-regularities' in his book
as being the legitimate object of empirical investigation.  I am, like you,
interested to have the point about closure and regularities (be they demi or
otherwise) clarified.  How do we investigate relatively enduring social
structures or 'fields of possibilities' in (I think) RB's terminology
without recourse to the idea of some type of regularity?  I don't think the
econometricians have got it right but I think some forms of quantitative
approach for empirical research are (or ought to be) potentially


Nick Allum

Methodology Institute
London WC2

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