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Social Sciences

  The social sciences are a group of disciplines concerned with the study of human behaviour. The ‘standard’ social sciences are anthropology, economics, political science, psychology and sociology, but the sphere of interest also includes parts of such other disciplines as archaeology, geography, history, philosophy and theology, even ethnomusicology, linguistics and literary criticism, and more recent areas of study (notably feminism, ecology and media studies) are acquiring bodies of work and methodologies which make their claims to inclusion ever more clamourous.

It is a matter for debate whether human behaviour can be studied at all in the same way as the phenomena of the natural world, whether ‘science’ is in any sense the correct term for all these disciplines. Adherents once vehemently claimed that it was, that any form of study using scientific methods of hypothesis, experimentation and analysis was a ‘science’. This was certainly the view taken in 18th- and 19th-century Europe, when many of the disciplines first became individually established (instead of being part and parcel of wider topics like religious studies or philosophy). But of late, as the disciplines have burgeoned and begun to interpenetrate one another, sharing techniques and combining evidence, there has been strong impetus towards counting the whole study of human behaviour as a single entity and calling it ‘social studies’. KMcL



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