This research also will help further acknowledge the good and bad effects of press agentry within the political process, beginning with some of the earliest forms of politics....
”Art in this function has helped to undermine the assumptions that the state and civilized society are valuable or admirable, thus impairing the effectiveness of political and social institutions and proving the destroyers’ own case. By linking the growing interest and respect for art in modern times with the ‘dominance of bourgeoise values’ Art has effectively turned on art itself by becoming a vehicle for every kind of assault on traditional standards of beauty, craft, morality and commonsense.”
For example while the essentialist wants to find the essence of justice (or the state) and the historicist wants to look at the history of the state or the way things are going Popper suggested that we should consider what we want from our system of justice and from the state.
The point is to begin with the right questions, that is, questions which facilitate purposeful and effective action both in the experimental sciences and in social and political matters. Collingwood made the same point in writing about “the logic of question and answer” (Collingwood 1957 Chapter V). Working scientists are expected to carry out experiments and make observations. They have to be active and Popper’s proposals (rules) can be applied to their activities including their deliberations before and after experimental and observational work. In the realm of politics and social action Popper similarly provided some rules, starting with the suggestion to use the language of political demands or proposals instead of the language of essentialism and historicism.
Many issues arise from the troubled relationship between science and politics since applied science became vital for national defence and pure science moved beyond the point where people could win Nobel Prizes with equipment purchased from the local hardware shop. Much of Jarvie’s discussion on these matters is directly or indirectly concerned with the governance of science (another book trying to get out) and Steve Fuller’s comments on these parts of the book will be welcome.
Laura Zimmermann, an assistant professor whose work focuses on the intersection of political science and economics in developing countries, conducts research that has implications for policymakers around the world.
Note 1. The institutional approach points to the type of work which Douglas North pursued to win a Nobel Prize in Economics. In his acceptance address North stated “Institutions form the incentive structure of a society and the political and economic institutions, in consequence, are the underlying determinants of economic performance” (North 1993).
A more recent development is a rapidly-growing literature on problems in the quality of published research. Richard Horton in his capacity as editor in chief of Lancet wrote “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may be simply untrue…Science has taken a turn towards darkness” with reference to small sample sizes, invalid analyses, conflicts of interest and obsession with fashionable trends (Horton 2015). There is concern about the increasing incidence of retractions and the higher rate of retractions in high impact journals (Fang et al 2011) and the dangerous liaison of science and politics (Butos and McQuade 2006). Less than 12% of articles in 2004 in The Journal of Economic Theory passed three tests – stating a theory, explaining why it mattered and testing it (Klein and Romaro 2007). There are problems of replication of results and politicization in some fields such as climate science . Another concern is the declining publication of negative results (Fanelli 2012) and it would be interesting to explore if this has any basis in the persistent teaching of confirmation theory rather than critical rationalism in epistemology and the philosophy of science.
Popper’s reference to the institutional context of science in The Poverty of Historicism points to the governance of science which became a big issue in Britain when Marxists such as Bernal pushed for government control of the national research effort (Bernal 1939). This provoked a reaction to defend autonomous science led by Michael Polanyi and in this context he wrote “The Republic of Science: Its Political and Economic Theory” published in Minerva (1962). For an account of this episode and a survey of the range of issues involved, see Ravetz Scientific Knowledge and its Social Problems (1971).
Hayek took a similar approach in The Constitution of Liberty where he discussed the pros and cons of democracy. He noted that the power of the state was not expected to be a problem after power came into the hands of the people because the new rulers (replacing kings, emperors and despots) would not harm themselves. However the people are represented by politicians, parties and factions which are not under the immediate control of the people. Hence the danger of the abuse of power persists under democracy “But it is not democracy but unlimited government which is objectionable…It is not who governs but what government is entitled to do that seems to me the essential problem.” (Hayek 1976 403 my italics)
That is not to dismiss studies which search for patterns or regularities in social or political processes. Similarly, we do not dismiss historical studies, it means that we do not confuse trends with laws and it means that we do not have to submit to historical tendencies like ruin of democracy under communism in Russia and state socialism in Germany.
“Research at the intersection of economics and international affairs in developing countries is a new and very active field with many open questions. I deal with real-life issues that affect millions of people every single day, for example with whether India’s very ambitious anti-poverty schemes work in practice and where the challenges lie. This means that my research is not only purely academic, but also has policy implications that can serve as information for governments and institutions such as the World Bank. I have presented my work at workshops that bring together politicians, government program beneficiaries, NGOs and academics, which have been incredible for the exchange of ideas.”