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Book Review(s) of: The Poor Relation: A History of Social Sciences in Australia, by Stuart Macintyre, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2010. pp. viii, 402.

Bolton, G. (2010) Book Review(s) of: The Poor Relation: A History of Social Sciences in Australia, by Stuart Macintyre, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2010. pp. viii, 402. Labour History (99). pp. 250-251.

Abstract

The dust jacket promises us that this book examines the place of the social sciences in the teaching and research conducted by Australian universities. This is a big brief and inevitably results in unevenness of disciplinary coverage. Readers of this journal, for instance, will find only half a page devoted to the origins of industrial relations as a discipline and nothing whatever about its development in the last 50 years. The book itself is more modest in its scope. It largely confines itself to the part played by the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and its predecessor, the Social Sciences Research Council. This lends a somewhat Canberra-centric bias to its content but it also enables Macintyre to concentrate on his important major theme. Why, during two-thirds of a century, have the social sciences failed to make a greater impact on Australian public policy or to secure a greater level of public and private support? Why have they been so persistently treated as the poor relation of science and technology? One of the causes is systemic. A series of powerful advocates for the physical sciences, from Sir Mark Oliphant to Robin Batterham, have argued for government funding with a confident, if not always well-founded, faith in the certitude of scientific method. The social sciences are a very broad church whose members range from the most empirical of narrative historians to the most behavioural of psychologists. In much social science research there is a tentative and provisional element that cannot provide politicians with a rock-solid basis for public policy. Even the economists are divided…

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Publisher: Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Inc.
Publishers Website: http://asslh.org.au/
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/15800
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