Chaos of Disciplines
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In this vital new study, Andrew Abbott presents a fresh and daring analysis of the evolution and development of the social sciences. Chaos of Disciplines reconsiders how knowledge actually changes and advances. Challenging the accepted belief that social sciences are in a perpetual state of progress, Abbott contends that disciplines instead cycle around an inevitable pattern of core principles. New schools of thought, then, are less a reaction to an established order than they are a reinvention of fundamental concepts.
Chaos of Disciplines uses fractals to explain the patterns of disciplines, and then applies them to key debates that surround the social sciences. Abbott argues that knowledge in different disciplines is organized by common oppositions that function at any level of theoretical or methodological scale. Opposing perspectives of thought and method, then, in fields ranging from history, sociology, and literature, are to the contrary, radically similar; much like fractals, they are each mutual reflections of their own distinctions.
four moves in the procedure are shown in figure 1. 7. Eventually, we will end up uniformly spread out on an east-west axis four miles long. By this procedure, that is, our group can discover what is happening anywhere on this axis. The fractal distinction fills the (onedimensional) space well. Note too the important fact that this rule of motion enables us to achieve that coverage without any initial specification of who goes where. That is, the rule works precisely because it is an indexical
perspective, see Cole 1975. 11. Ironically, the American Sociological Review, the principal ASA journal, had been founded in 1936 to escape what was then perceived as the elitist, "scientific," and very Chicago-dominated American Journal of Sociology. See Abbott 1999a:78-79. 12. On the history of the SSSP, see Skura 1976 and Lee and Lee 1976 and other essays in the SSSP anniversary volume of that year. The Fraction of Construction 69 money to do expensive kinds of work, outsiders attacking
unreliability. When Chicago's new police chief professionalized police practices in 1962, the city's crime rate rose 83 percent in a single year. Even the most hardened realist knew that changes in reporting were the cause. By 1960 Sellin and Wolfgang had received funding for a massive positivist project on "measuring delinquency," a project that reassembled traditional definitions of delinquency very carefully, although without taking a labeling approach. In their published report, Sellin and
seeking jobs, but also by large changes in the society. The move toward outpatient psychiatric practice, in short, arose in a process whose several layers moved at different speeds but nonetheless conditioned each other. 42 An analytic strategy that isolates epochal periods within which "sociological" causal judgments hold true cannot analyze such a system. Yet in fact, most processes studied by historians and sociol42. There is a standard empiricist answer to this problem, which is to break up
intradisciplinary knowledge. A similar argument applies to interdisciplinary cultural structure, which has also been invoked throughout my argument. Interdisciplinary theft and mutual criticism both involve complex cultural relations between disciplines and both serve to stabilize the intellectual lineages within disciplines. So too does the process of contextual redefinition, whereby internally victorious lineages find themselves in unexpected fractal relations to-and competition The Context