Thursday, March 29, 2007

freaks and geeks

I uploaded a recent article in the New Republic on Freakonomics and economists fretting about the rise of cute little studies in their discipline. My stance, which I did not do an especially good job of articulating in this panel of Freaknomics at the Eastern Sociological Society meetings, is that sociology should, at least from a strategic standpoint, be on the side of the freakonomists in their battle against the structural-modellers in economics, because the former stakes out a position that is far more congenial to prevailing tendency of sociologists to be stronger with understanding data and process than they are at math.

Update: Link fixed.

3 comments:

Ken Houghton said...

I tried Firefox and IE; the link appears not to work.

Be careful what you wish for; economics studied people before it decided to become a sub-branch of calculus with less rigor.

Steve M said...

The need to define what is proper in economics is very strong, and perhaps stronger than in any of the other social sciences. It is great fun to watch economists slug it out on these issues, and this is perhaps the most interesting of such struggles that I know of (and perhaps this is because it is a generational split, which brings up emotionally charged 'young turks' issues as well).

In my view, cute studies with strong conclusions about weird subpopulations are a very nice complement to structural studies with assumption-laden conclusions about full populations. Of course, when people doing cute studies of weird subpopolutaions extrapolate to full populations, they open themselves up to critique. But, then again, that crtitique seems to usually lead to a productive debate in which the structural modelers get to promote their positions too.

Corey said...

quoting: because the former stakes out a position that is far more congenial to prevailing tendency of sociologists to be stronger with understanding data and process than they are at math.

Aha! So you are saying that sociologists are no good at math.

(ducking for cover)