East Central Europe 36 (2009) 12–19 © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2009 DOI 10.1163/187633009X411430 brill.nl/eceu Comparative History: Methodology and Ethos Jürgen Kocka Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, Berlin Abstract While it is necessary to distinguish between analytical and normative statements, the quest for this distinction – and for value-free science – is itself normatively based. Comparative approaches can serve important descriptive and analytical functions. Th ey reduce the danger of methodological nationalism and intellectual parochialism in historical studies. Th e comparative approach allows to ﬁ nd an acceptable middle ground between the acceptance of basic diﬀ erences and universalist claims. Method and ethos interact. But a-symmetric comparison shows that scientiﬁ c productiv- ity and political incorrectness can go together. For this, Max Weber’s comparative approach can serve as an example. Keywords comparative history, historical methodology, German Sonderweg , normativity Science and Values Die Wertfreiheit der Wissenschaft – the value-freeness of science – has been postulated, demanded, and discussed for more than a century. Max Weber’s “Wissenschaftslehre” is a classical site for the formulation of this thesis. He makes convincingly clear that there is a fundamental distinction between analytical and normative statements. Describing, understanding and explain- ing social reality is
East Central Europe – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2009
Keywords: GERMAN SONDERWEG; COMPARATIVE HISTORY; HISTORICAL METHODOLOGY; NORMATIVITY
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