It is easy to accept Freud as an applied scientist, and, indeed he is widely regarded as the twentieth century’s master clinician. However, in viewing Marx as an applied scientist the stance needed is that of a Machiavellian operationalism. The objective is neither to buy nor to praise him. The assumption is simply that he is better understood for being understood as an applied social scientist. This is in part the clear implication of Marx’s thesis on Feurbach, which culminate in the resounding 11th thesis: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways; the point is, however, to change it”. This would seem to be the tacit creed of applied scientists everywhere. Marx was no Faustian, concerned solely with understanding society, but a Promethean who sought to understand it well enough to influence and to change it. He was centrally concerned with the social problems of a lay group, the proletariat, and there can be little doubt that his work is motivated by an effort to reduce their suffering, as he saw it.
His diagnosis was that their increasing misery and alienation engendered endemic class struggle; his prognosis claimed that this would culminate in revolution; his therapeutic prescription was class consciousness and active struggle. Here, as in assessing Durkheim or Freud, the issue is not whether this analysis is empirically correct or scientifically adequate. Furthermore, whether or not this formulation seems to eviscerate Marx’s revolutionary core, as critics on the left may charge, or whether the formulation provides Marx with a new veneer of academic respectability, as critics on the right may allege, is entirely irrelevant from the present standpoint. In so far as Marx’s or any other social scientist’s work conforms to a generalized model of applied social science, in so far as it is professionally oriented to the values and social problems of laymen in his society, he may be treated as an applied social scientist.
Despite Durkheim’s intellectualistic proclivities and rationalistic pathos, he was too much the product of European turbulence to turn his back on the travail of his culture. “Why strive for knowledge of reality, if this knowledge cannot aid us in life,” he asked. “Social science’” he said, “can provide us with rules of action for the future.” Durkeim, like Marx, conceived of science as an agency of social action, and, like him, was professionally oriented to the values and problems of laymen in his society. Unless one sees that Durkheim was in some part an applied social scientist, it is impossible to understand why he concludes his monumental study of suicide with a chapter on ‘Practical Consequences,’ and why, in the Division of Labour, he proposes a specific remedy for anomie. Durkheim is today widely regarded as a model of theoretic and methodological sophistication, and is thus usually seen only in his capacity as a pure social scientist. Surely this is an incomplete view of a man who regarded the practical effectiveness of a scientist as its principal justification. To be more fully understood, Durkheim also needs to be seen as an applied sociologist. His interest in religious beliefs and organization, in crime and penology, in educational methods and organization, in suicide and anomie, are not casually chosen problem areas. Nor did he select them only because they provided occasions for the development for his theoretical orientation. These areas were in his time, as they are today, problems of indigenous interest to applied sociologists in Western society, precisely because of their practical significance.
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