Elucidating Social Science Concepts: An Interpretivist Guide

Author: Frederic Charles Schaffer

Price:  $31.11

Series: Routledge Series on Interpretive Methods

Paperback: 134 pages

Publisher: Routledge (August 8, 2015)

Language: English

Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.4 x 8.9 inches

1. Introduction

Concepts have always been foundational to the social science enterprise. This book is a guide to working with them. Against the positivist project of concept "reconstruction"―the formulation of a technical, purportedly neutral vocabulary for measuring, comparing, and generalizing―Schaffer adopts an interpretivist approach that he calls "elucidation." Elucidation includes both a reflexive examination of social science technical language and an investigation into the language of daily life. It is intended to produce a clear view of both types of language, the relationship between them, and the practices of life and power that they evoke and sustain. After an initial chapter explaining what elucidation is and how it differs from reconstruction, the book lays out practical elucidative strategies―grounding, locating, and exposing―that help situate concepts in particular language games, times and tongues, and structures of power. It also explores the uses to which elucidation can be put and the moral dilemmas that attend such uses. By illustrating his arguments with lively analyses of such concepts as "person," "family," and "democracy," Schaffer shows rather than tells, making the book both highly readable and an essential guide for social science research.

Frederic Charles Schaffer is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is chair of the Committee on Concepts and Methods of the International Political Science Association and teaches ethnographic methods at the Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, which is attended each summer by approximately 180 participants from schools, departments, and research centers around the world. A past Program Chair for the Interpretation and Methods Conference Group of the American Political Science Association, he now serves as a member of the Group’s Executive Committee. Schaffer is the author of Democracy in Translation: Understanding Politics in an Unfamiliar Culture and The Hidden Costs of Clean Election Reform, and the editor of Elections for Sale: The Causes and Consequences of Vote Buying.

2. Comment

By barbara cruikshank on September 19, 2015

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

I love this book. A crystal clear, incisive, and practical guide to working with concepts. Anyone in the social sciences and beyond will benefit, and more importantly their readers will benefit, from this book. Whether you are working with ordinary language or refined analytical concepts, you will find a wealth of insight here and learn to generate usable knowledge by following Schaffer's advice on elucidating concepts.

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