Comparative History: Methodology and Ethos

Comparative History: Methodology and Ethos 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 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png East Central Europe Brill

Comparative History: Methodology and Ethos

East Central Europe, Volume 36 (1): 12 – Jan 1, 2009

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© 2009 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
0094-3037
eISSN
1876-3308
D.O.I.
10.1163/187633009X411430
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

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

Journal

East Central EuropeBrill

Published: Jan 1, 2009

Keywords: GERMAN SONDERWEG; COMPARATIVE HISTORY; HISTORICAL METHODOLOGY; NORMATIVITY

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