Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://hdl.handle.net/1959.11/6813
Title: Structurist Approaches to Economic and Social History: An Examination of Some Key Issues in the Methodologies of Structural History and a Defence of Structurism as the Basis for Historical Science
Contributor(s): Lloyd, Christopher (author); Falkus, Malcolm (supervisor)
Conferred Date: 1992
Copyright Date: 1991
Open Access: Yes
Handle Link: https://hdl.handle.net/1959.11/6813
Abstract: This dissertation is about how the historical processes of structural change in economies and societies are being conceptualised and explained and about how the main concepts and forms of explanation could be improved. The starting point is an awareness that there are major methodological and conceptual weaknesses in the explanations currently provided by many historians of economic and social structures. Empirical weaknesses in explanations will always be with us in the sense that more information about present and past economies and societies is constantly becoming available as a result of research and the process of social change itself. But methodological and conceptual weaknesses may be susceptible to permanent improvement as a result of analytical thought, including examinations of conceptual systems, of the logic of enquiry and reasoning employed by particular sciences, including structural history, and of how some sciences have become more advanced than others. In particular, the crucial process of forming a coherent 'domain' of scientific enquiry for social structural history must be examined. The extended articulation and defence of historical science in this dissertation tries to design and situate its fortifications so as to deflect the attacks of advocates of hermeneutical relativism, post-structuralism, and "common sense" historiography. The fortifications are built on a prominent outcrop of the strategic territory of analytical philosophy of science, and they are constructed out of materials gathered from scientific realism. To the advocates of hermeneutical relativism and post-structuralist theory arguments for a 'science' of history are now atavistic and näive, and to the "common sense" practitioners of traditional interpretive history they are irrelevant. Conceptualising and trying to 'discover' the 'real hidden structures' of society and the 'real processes' of social structural change are unfashionable and outmoded to all these opponents. But I persist in holding that the histories of economies and societies, like the histories of the earth and the biosphere, proceed independently of beliefs, concepts, theories, ideologies, and philosophies. Theorists and philosophers only try to conceptualise and interpret the world (or even just each other's imaginative theoretical creations), the point is to 'explain' the origins and nature of the real structures of the world and their transformations. Herein I examine the underlying individualist and holist methodologies (or which are often only unexamined assumptions) for approaching the explanation of the history of economic and social structures. I argue that there exists a third alternative to individualism and holism - what I call "methodological structurism". Like the other two, this third methodology is interconnected with a concept of structure and a concept of structural change. But unlike the other methodologies, it has not been well articulated nor extensively defended. Methodological structurism, I shall argue, now exists quite widely as an unexamined assumption embedded in the explanations of many historians. I shall try to articulate it and show why it is the most appropriate methodology for approaching the explanation of structural history.
Publication Type: Thesis Doctoral
Rights Statement: Copyright 1991 - Christopher Lloyd
HERDC Category Description: T2 Thesis - Doctorate by Research
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