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"Soft" Area Studies versus "Hard" Social Science: A False Opposition

Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor
Slavic Review
Vol. 66, No. 1 (Spring, 2007), pp. 1-19
DOI: 10.2307/20060144
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20060144
Page Count: 19
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"Soft" Area Studies versus "Hard" Social Science: A False Opposition
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Abstract

Much criticism of area studies has come from social scientists, some of whom consider area studies to be "soft," emphasizing description and culture, while social science is "hard," emphasizing mathematics, rigor, and replicability. Loren Graham, an area studies specialist, and Jean-Michel Kantor, a mathematician, maintain that this contrast is simplistic and undervalues area studies. They show that an area studies approach can help understand, not only society, but mathematics and quantitative approaches themselves. They use an area studies approach to help explain developments in set theory and relativity theory and call for a resurgence of area studies, for both intellectual and political reasons. At the same time, they do not undervalue social science, and celebrate its achievements. As they argue, a sophisticated understanding of social reality will require multiple approaches, including both social science and area studies.

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