Methods of Analysis in Social Sciences and Research for Peace – An Introduction

ACADEMIA-KNOWLEDGE-SCHOLARSHIP, 10 Dec 2012

Alberto L’Abate – TRANSCEND Media Service

The above mentioned volume has been published a short time ago, in English, by the Transcend University Press-TUP, the University founded by Johan Galtung (who has written the preface of the book), also in conjunction with the Publishing House CinnamonTeal, of Goa (India).  This work, shortly to be published in Italian, is founded on the Author’s lectures, at Florence University, on “Peace Research Methodology” for the Peace Workers’ graduate course (now amalgamated with the one for Economic Development) and also for the course specializing in social research technologies.  This publication is at present the textbook, on line, by the same author, in Transcend Peace University, both in English and in Italian, for students in various parts of the world.

This study deals with its subject in a rather original way if compared with the usual research methodology texts.  First of all, it discards the traditional standpoint of research “neutrality”, which according to the author favours the preservation of the “status quo”, since research is increasingly financed by the state, by the army or by important economic entities, which are more concerned in furthering their own power rather than promoting peace.  Because of this L’Abate has adopted the principles of “constructivism”, which considers a piece of research to be completed not with the publication of a good book, but only when the author has succeeded in transforming society in the hoped-for direction, especially following the participatory type of research (action-research)  with which he has so successfully experimented. In this event the outcome would be the creation of societies with more solidarity and less belligerence, or at least with the tendency to develop the known, but not yet implemented, possibilities for armed conflict prevention, both at international and at national level.

In addition, the author tackles other problems in the methodological sphere, trying to find solutions for them which he deems to be valid: among these the one initiated by Kuhn’s book on scientific revolutions, searching for a comprehensive paradigm for social sciences.  According to the author of this book, the solution to this problem can be found (also with the help of an English Researcher Ms Masterman) in distinguishing three different fields in the concept of paradigm: 1) metatheoric 2) real and proper theory and 3) paradigm intended as research methodology.

Following this line of thought the author considers that at first level it is necessary to overcome the still unresolved conflict between models of society which highlight the conflictual element and those which instead stress the consensual character, by means of the concept of “unstable equilibrium”, which, accepting them both, supersedes them.  Still at this level L’Abate tries to overcome the conflict between structuralists and individualists: the former who give priority to the social structures and their conditioning on individuals, and the latter who put in evidence the individual persons with their capacity for interaction and social relationships.  This antithesis is resolved by L’Abate with the acceptance of the “methodological individualism”, however clearly distinguishing it from the “political” one, and highlighting, instead of social structures considered as static, the process of their construction and deconstruction.

At the second level, the author, following R. Boudon’s line of thought, believes that it is necessary not to search for a single theory but rather to accept the possibility of several theories, even from some other social sciences, if founded on deep and solid methods of research.

At the third level, the methodological level, L’Abate although prompted by anti-methodological leanings (which rightly criticize the rigidity of the traditional quantitative-deductive method, proposing, with Feyerabend, an anarchic methodology) considers instead necessary to find a methodology founded both on deductive and inductive logic, which might overcome the antithesis between quantity and quality, explanation and comprehension.  In this field he believes in the existence of four methods of analysis to be used simultaneously, as different “lenses” which, if used as a complement to each other, would each allow us to see a part of the reality around us.  These are, according to the author: a) causal analysis, b) structural analysis, c) functional analysis, d) processing analysis.

In the final conclusive chapters the author illustrates these various methodologies for the analysis of social reality, trying to provide some ideas for a better definition of each one of them.  He also endeavours to show how, through their interaction, the problem of war and violence, their prevention and solution, can become more accessible and sustainable

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Prof. Alberto L’Abate is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. He lives in Florence, Italy and teaches at the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU and at the World Peace Academy in Basel, Switzerland.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 10 Dec 2012.

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