ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Social Science and Democracy

An Elective Affinity

Social sciences need democracy, not wealth, to prosper. It is only in those societies that centralise citizenship have disciplines such as economics, sociology, political science, as well as the humanities, made significant advances. This is because democracies alone robustly satisfy the foundational principles of social sciences, namely, allowing for human errors and the recognition of others in making choices for oneself.

I am grateful to Andre Beteille and to Deepak Mehta for their comments on this paper.

Ever wonder why social sciences, including philosophy, flourish today only in democratic societies? There are many rich countries in the world; Saudi Arabia, China, and Russia, for example, but their social sciences are in a miserable condition. Interestingly, there has been a resurgence of social sciences with the return of democracy in many Latin American nations, such as Mexico, Chile, and even Colombia. Now that Cuba is opening up somewhat, let us see, if in the years to come, it becomes a significant contributor to this sphere of knowledge. 

What makes this issue even more interesting is that many of these rich and powerful, but non-democratic states, have indeed made great strides in the exact sciences. China and Russia can match the advances in electronics, physics, medicine, transportation, and in a whole lot of other associated areas, with the best worldwide. Bring in sociology, political science, economics, even history, and these countries falter and fail to make the grade. This is not an overt defence of these disciplines; maybe some societies are happier without them and do not even notice their absence. Nevertheless, it is hard to evade the conclusion that it is only in democracies that social sciences are pursued actively. The question then is: Why is there such an “elective affinity” between the two?

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