Anthropology, Sociology, and Other Dubious Disciplines

This paper was delivered, as the 2002 Sidney W. Mintz Lecture, to the Department of Anthropology of The Johns Hopkins University on November 13, 2002.

The social construction of the disciplines as intellectual arenas that was made in the 19th century has outlived its usefulness and is today a major obstacle to serious intellectual work. Although the institutional framework of the disciplines remains strong, there are cracks in the structures of knowledge that make them less solid than most participants imagine. If the social sciences are to perform the social task demanded of them—providing wise counsel on the problems of the present—it is time that we harvested the richness of each discipline for use in their reconstruction. Some possible foundation stones for are constructed arena that might be called the historical social sciences are here suggested.

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