New public administration 1968-2002
UnderstandingSociety
by Dan Little
2d ago
Image: org chart, Housing and Urban Development (9,500 staff) Herbert Simon's important contribution to the study of administrative organizations appeared in 1947, with the title Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision-Making Processes in Administrative Organizations. It is a remarkably sophisticated book in the social scientific study of bureaucracy and large organizations. (Here is an earlier discussion of some of the main lines of thought in the book (link).) Simon provides a treatment of four of what he takes to be the key mechanisms underlying the operations of large organizations ..read more
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Ten paper topics in philosophy and history framed by ChatGPT
UnderstandingSociety
by Dan Little
2w ago
An earlier post considered the question of how to assess the quality of ChatGPT as an academic writer. One particular concern shared by professors in humanities and social sciences is whether ChatGPT will lead to "AI-plagiarism" in which students substitute ChatGPT sessions for their own work. This particular worry seems unjustified at present, but there is another more indirect way of "corner-cutting" that ChatGPT would allow. The tool seems to give surprisingly good summaries and analysis of reasonably difficult topic questions in philosophy and history. A student could spend half an hour ..read more
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ChatGPT as an academic writer
UnderstandingSociety
by Dan Little
2w ago
I've taken the view that the hoopla about ChatGPT is overblown, and that the texts generated by large language models in response to "prompts" are nothing more than strings of sentences, without coherent meaning. But now that I've spent an evening playing with the tool, my opinion is changed. I'm frankly amazed at how informative and coherent the responses are that ChatGPT provides in response to moderately difficult questions in philosophy, history, and sociology. I posed questions about Rousseau's concept of the general will; Peirce's distinctive philosophy of science; reasons for FEMA's f ..read more
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Philosophy of public administration?
UnderstandingSociety
by Dan Little
2w ago
  Philosophy has well-developed theories about the foundations of government — the moral principles that underlie the legitimacy of government; the nature of rights and duties of citizens; the limits of government authority; and so on for a large number of issues. These debates take place within social and political philosophy, a field whose lineage extends back to the ancient Greek philosophers, through Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Mill, and into the twentieth century in the writings of people like Rawls, Habermas, van Parijs, and Nozick. What does not yet exist ..read more
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Is ontological individualism still a viable social ontology?
UnderstandingSociety
by Dan Little
2w ago
image: a flat social ontology: actors and structures Over the years I've continued to advocate for the position of ontological individualism -- the idea that social entities, powers, and conditions are all constituted by the actions, thoughts, and mental frameworks of individual human beings, and nothing else. I'm no longer entirely confident that this is an adequate view of social ontology, because I also maintain that doing good social science requires researchers to work with a rich theory of the social actors who constitute the "substrate" of the social world. In particular, I maintain t ..read more
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Atomism versus holism in social ontology
UnderstandingSociety
by Dan Little
1M ago
Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit addressed the micro-macro question in an essay called "Structural Explanation in Social Theory" (link), included in Reduction, Explanation, and Realism (1992, ch. 4). Particularly interesting is the brief distinction that they draw between two senses of individualism: atomism versus holism, and individualism versus collectivism. They believe that these two distinctions are quite different, and yet are commonly conflated.  The first distinction has to do with the logical characteristics of the properties of intentionality attributed to the actor ..read more
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Guest post: Varieties of realism by Jamie Morgan
UnderstandingSociety
by Dan Little
1M ago
[Jamie Morgan accepted my invitation to contribute a guest post to Understanding Society on the topic of the varieties of realism in the philosophy of social science. Jamie is Professor of Economic Sociology at Leeds Beckett University. He co-edits the Real-World Economics Review with Edward Fullbrook. He has published widely in the fields of economics, political economy, philosophy, sociology and international politics. Jamie is well positioned to provide this assessment. Thanks, Jamie!] VARIETIES OF REALISM BY JAMIE MORGAN j.a.morgan@leedsbeckett.ac.uk Scientific realism has many overlappi ..read more
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Pinpointing responsibility for Russian atrocities in Bucha
UnderstandingSociety
by Dan Little
1M ago
In November I wrote a blog post asking the question, "What organization and what commanders have directed the campaign of atrocity, murder, rape, mutilation, torture, and abduction in Ukraine? Is there good investigative reporting on where orders for these unspeakable atrocities and crimes against humanity are coming from?" Now, thanks to some stupendous reporting by the New York Times, we know part of the answer. In Bucha, the Times has established "a mountain of evidence" based on painstaking analysis of digital and phone evidence that major atrocities and murder were committed by one elit ..read more
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Sherwood Eddy’s treatment of Marx
UnderstandingSociety
by Dan Little
1M ago
Sherwood Eddy was an American Protestant activist and missionary in the early twentieth century. (Here is a brief biography and bibliography of Eddy; link.) He was educated in elite American institutions but acquired a deep empathy for the less-well-off members of society, both in the US and Asia. He was drawn to Communism, though never a member of the CP. Eddy explicitly identified himself as a Christian socialist. In 1926 he engaged in a debate in Moscow on the subject, "wherein lies the essence of the present religion and is it compatible with communism?". In 1934 he was invited to partic ..read more
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Lies and myths in the social world
UnderstandingSociety
by Dan Little
1M ago
An earlier post mentioned the topic of folk psychology and its relation to cognitive science. Scholars like Paul Churchland question whether there is a realistic correspondence between the properties identified by our folk-psychological understanding of each other and the real underlying cognitive processes on the basis of which we operate. My interest here is a parallel question for social knowledge: is there a similar situation at work in our ordinary representations of the social world? Are the concepts and causal hypotheses through which we describe and experience the social world reas ..read more
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