Theorising in the Social Sciences

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2023) | Viewed by 3110

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Formerly, Now Retired from Faculty of Health, Social Care and Medicine, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk L39 4QP, UK
Interests: history and philosophy of science; methodology; ideology; welfare/policy studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

As social scientists, we regularly and necessarily refer to theory to inform our thinking and our practice(s) regarding social phenomena, but we often do so implicitly. As a result, the theoretical/intellectual/ideational basis for much of our work is not visible nor, significantly, opened to critique. Theoretically based research—which I refer to here as ‘theorising’—is generally regarded as an ‘intellectual’ activity, seen as somewhat secondary to that which is empirical, methods-focused, and ‘practical’ (Višňovský 2019), with there being something of an (illusory?) ontological distinction drawn between the two. According to Swedberg (2014; 2016), ‘theorising’ is the process of developing theory, so precedes it within what he refers to as the context of discovery, whilst theory locates itself within the context of justification. Arguably, too, the use of other extant theories from within the context of justification can be utilised, integrated, and considered within the context of discovery—generating new perspectives on social science phenomena by the judicious use of existing theories, explanations, and ideas. As such, theorising could (should?) be considered an important social practice in the same way as other practice(s), thus creating a space within and through which intellectual activity such as thinking, reflecting, and extrapolating can be regarded as inherently valuable and necessary to the whole research agenda at every and all levels.

From the perspective of extant theory (the context of justification), all social scientists/scientists have their own favourites and would regularly refer to these to inform their work. However, these theories themselves are underpinned by a range of meta-theories—those broad-based ‘philosophies of science’—for example, interpretivism, pragmatism, critical realism, etc., within which such contextualised theories nestle, and which themselves offer the tools to generate and shape our thinking and aid the discovery of different ways to conceptualise social science phenomena.

The aim of this Special Issue is to receive papers that consider, discuss, and locate theorising as an active process, providing specific examples of how this can and has been used by contributors in relation to a wide range of social science phenomena. Of particular interest would be those contributions that consider both meta-theoretical/philosophical perspectives as precursors to more contextualised theory development and practical application with submissions that take account/draw from the widest range of disciplines being given special attention, recognising that, as Kurt Lewin said, “There is nothing as practical as a good theory.”

References

Swedberg, Richard. 2014. The Art of Social Theory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Swedberg, Richard. 2016. Before theory comes theorizing or how to make social science more interesting. The British journal of sociology 67: 5-22.

Višňovský, Emil. 2019. Action, Practice and Theory: Toward a Pragmatist Philosophy. in Questions of Practice in Philosophy and Social Theory. Edited by Buch, Anders and Theodore Schatzki. London: Routledge.

Dr. Steve Hothersall
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • theorising
  • theory
  • philosophy of science
  • metatheory
  • research

Published Papers (2 papers)

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15 pages, 1187 KiB  
Article
Emotional Ambience in Interaction Rituals: A Conceptional Completion to Emotional Energy
by Adam Droppe
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(9), 509; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12090509 - 11 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1612
Abstract
This article aims to elaborate on Collins’ theory of Interaction Ritual Chains by proposing the concept of emotional ambience as a complement to emotional energy. Interaction ritual chains describe how collective actions and shared cognitive and affective orientations within a group contribute to [...] Read more.
This article aims to elaborate on Collins’ theory of Interaction Ritual Chains by proposing the concept of emotional ambience as a complement to emotional energy. Interaction ritual chains describe how collective actions and shared cognitive and affective orientations within a group contribute to feelings of unity and reverence towards the group’s symbols. Successful interaction rituals generate emotional energy (EE), leading to increased self assurance, enthusiasm, and initiative. Conversely, unsuccessful rituals diminish EE. The concept of EE pertains to the long-term impact of interaction rituals on individuals beyond immediate contexts. To capture emotions created and diffused in social settings, the term emotional ambience is suggested. Emotional ambience focuses on the collective emotional process in an interaction situation, enhancing our understanding of how common sentiments are cultivated among actors during interaction rituals. To facilitate the analysis of emotional ambience, a three-dimensional model is proposed, considering the valence, arousal, and strength of collective emotions. Methodologically, the study focuses on the emotional coordination of various communication elements, such as gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, and rhythm of speech. Understanding the separation of emotional energy and emotional ambience is crucial, as even the mutual sharing of unpleasant emotions can generate emotional energy and strengthen social bonds. The reciprocal relationship between emotional energy and emotional ambience highlights how individuals’ emotional energy influences the emotional ambience of interactional situations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Theorising in the Social Sciences)
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12 pages, 1278 KiB  
Perspective
How Often Are We in the Here and Now?
by Şerban Procheş
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(3), 132; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12030132 - 27 Feb 2023
Viewed by 992
Abstract
There is a conflict between humans’ need to focus on the present circumstances and their ability to plan and reminisce, which often results in mind wandering. Contemporary techniques with ancient roots, such as mindfulness, are useful in solving some of the problems associated [...] Read more.
There is a conflict between humans’ need to focus on the present circumstances and their ability to plan and reminisce, which often results in mind wandering. Contemporary techniques with ancient roots, such as mindfulness, are useful in solving some of the problems associated with excessive mind wandering but largely fail to recognize the importance of planning and reminiscing. This lack of recognition means that research has by and large ignored the need for a balanced approach, incorporating a focus on both the present local circumstances and elsewhere. Here, I scrutinize time use data to classify contemporary human activities, with an emphasis on leisure but also relevant in a work context. I classify activities according to their temporal and spatial profiles, while also noting any social components involved, which may further remove the activity focus from the self. A visual summary of this classification indicates that our activities, whether societally imposed on us or performed by choice, cover the full range of time-and-place focus profiles available to the human mind more or less evenly. This contradicts the prevalent paradigm, suggesting a dichotomy between present time-and-place focus and mind wandering. I suggest that individual differences in temporal and spatial focus profiles require both broad and in-depth study, such differences having the potential to help optimize not only individual well-being but also the functioning of society, and that mind wandering may be (at least partly) unnecessarily vilified. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Theorising in the Social Sciences)
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