This essay provides a review of Bent Flyvbjerg’s critique of conventional social science research, including its limitations in applied fields such as social work, followed by a specification of his alternative for a “phronetic social science.” I detail how I with two colleagues practiced phronetic social science in our collaboration with Philadelphia housing activists, including most especially the role of interpretive narrative analysis as part of our case study research. In conclusion, I discuss the somewhat ironic challenges of trying to increase the legitimacy of such activist research in applied fields like social work where an obsession with being seen as scientific is prevalent as a means to improve prestige of applied research. I discuss how we need less top-down research which focuses on a “what works” agenda that serves the management of subordinate populations and more research that provides bottom-up understandings of a “what’s right” agenda tailored to empowering people in particular settings. Real social science research needs to listen to how people on the bottom experience their own subordination so that we can help them overcome their subjugation. Good social science includes taking the perspective of the oppressed in the name of helping them achieve social justice. In the end, there are a number of tension points between the model of conventional social science and phronetic social science that starkly highlight how we need to change research in order do research that promotes positive social change.
Clinical Social Work Journal – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 14, 2016
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