The Duck of Minerva

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Wikipedia #Fail

May 17, 2011

An abortive comment on Phil Arena’s “Rat Choice Apologetics IV” led me to a quick wikipedia check of “positivism.” I often do this sort of thing, just as a kind of gut check when I want to be precise about terms.

Turns out the article has a number of real problems. They culminate in the discussion of “modern positivism,” from which I now quote:

However, positivism (understood as the use of scientific methods for studying society) remains the dominant approach to both research and theory construction in contemporary sociology, especially in the United States.

The majority of articles published in leading American sociology and political science journals today are positivist (at least to the extent of being quantitative rather than qualitative). This popularity may be because research utilizing positivist quantitative methodologies holds a greater prestige in the social sciences than qualitative work. Such research is generally perceived as being more scientific and more trustworthy, and thus has a greater impact on policy and public opinion (though such judgments are frequently contested by scholars doing non-positivist work.

As I only have the energy to police one wikipedia article, consider this a formal request for someone else to take a swing at this one.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.