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Journal Article

Synthesis and Fragmentation in Social Theory: A Progressive Solution

John Holmwood and Alexander Stewart
Sociological Theory
Vol. 12, No. 1 (Mar., 1994), pp. 83-100
DOI: 10.2307/202037
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/202037
Page Count: 18
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Synthesis and Fragmentation in Social Theory: A Progressive Solution
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Abstract

Postmodern claims for the lack of general coherence in social life and therefore in social research are merely a version of recurrent attempts to accept incoherence as adequate in explanations. Incoherence, however, is less sharply distinguished from the synthetic and generalizing theories that it is held to have replaced than its proponents and critics suppose. Generalizing approaches, in fact, were built around contradictions that contributed to their instability and facilitated postmodern fragmentation. In this paper we demonstrate the central contradictions in social theory, showing their common occurrence in apparently opposed positions. Both postmodernism and what it seeks to replace are features of a conservative and unproductive social science. We trace the contradictory continuities through major modern schools of social theory in order to clear the ground for a progressive social science which accepts contradictions as problems that must be solved creatively in the practice of social research.

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