Sociological Forum

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 455–479 | Cite as

Progress and cumulation in the human sciences after the fall

  • Mayer N. Zald


What do we mean by progress and cumulation in the social and human sciences? Recent thinking in the philosophy and history of science has led to an abandonment of some versions of logical positivism and of verificationism that had a strong deductive and theory testing orientation. What is to replace them is less clear. This paper argues that progress and cumulation can be seen as a process of evaluation and retention within an epistemic community. Scholarly disciplines differ in their social structure and in their epistemic and normative commitments. Since sociology is a fragmented discipline, progress and cumulation differ within its multiple subdisciplines, which to varying extents represent epistemic communities. Brief sketches of progress (advance) and cumulation in several subdisciplines are offered.

Key words

progress and cumulation in social and human sciences philosophy of science history of science logical positivism deduction theory testing 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mayer N. Zald
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of MichiganAnn Arbor

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