The polls got it wrong, again... The end of 'social science'? Time to stop predicting and start listening...

This is clearly the end of the line for the hierarchy of social 'science' in its current form. They used to call it 'armchair' anthropology, but contemporary social science has been spearheaded for years by people sittting in fancy swivel seats in metallic offices with brightly polished windows who stare at computers all day and don't listen. The result is that economists failed to predict the 2008 crash and have had no idea what to say about its consequences: in gross they have offered advice that is barely more successful than the Chinese astrologers of a long gone era. Psychologists have produced 'laboratory' studies in the thousands whose 'results' can't be replicated--in many cases because they chose the narrowest possible social catchment, college students. Pollsters have consistently got the results of the most decisive recent political events wrong. In the UK, the best predictions about the recent British election and the Brexit referendum were wrong. And now we know that, in the U.S., the long statistical worm pointing to a Clinton victory was an illusion too: they might as well have had pulpo paul running the polling. These are the most highly paid social scientific servants of business and government and yet their methods and key concepts often appear to be little better than phlogiston. 

Here is what a commentator wrote this morning about the polling trend that had Clinton with an 80% or more likelihood of victory:

"The polls were wrong. And because we are obsessed with predicting opinions rather than listening to them, we didn’t see it coming. So, the world woke up believing that Republican candidate Donald Trump had a 15% chance of winning based on polling predictions – roughly the same chance of rolling a six if you have two dice. Despite those odds, the next US president will be Donald Trump."

The one person who got this scenario right was Donald Trump. He predicted 'Brexit plus' and that is what happened. He saw there was fertile ground for victory by appealing to people whose social lives and institutions have been atomised over the last thirty years and he was right. Of course, he wasn't talking to or for anything like a single social grouping, but the truth is that social scientists don't know who he was really talking to and listening to, because they haven't been listening themselves; social scientists don't know what is going on at all.

Malinowski recognised this kind of phenomenon in the 1930s which is why he became so closely involved in the mass observation studies of that era. Mass observation may be largely forgotten now, but the principle was clear--if you want to know what is going on then you need to stop paying attention to the most superficial elements of culture and look at and listen to real patterns of action. The standard Malinowskian mantra is usually reproduced in the phrase 'what people say and what they do is not the same.' The bulk of social science seems obsessed almost to the point of mania with 'what people say'.

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G E N I A L ---John---Now I have to teach I have no time  then I will ilustrate again!


Some anthropologists very the ..???? jua jua ;)))))

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after with the lectures 

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some trying to descend to the earth

the academy

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the academic formation 

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the winners

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The  power in the academy with the lines Image result for secuencias de la vida de Brian

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waiting a grant or just to be listen at their door

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So...I hope you could laugh as well because with the humour, we could arrive to think and to do soemthing with the coherence with Anthropology..becuase the discipline has it in her join what is not view and what is yes...

Thanks Cecilia, I enjoyed some of those (and did laugh!), though a few too many for me to fully appreciate.

Apologies John I wasn't meaning to be flippant. I have enjoyed and learnt from this thread. I was trying to answer Huon's question directly by answering what I hear when I listen to Brexit/Trump etc from friends, family, and campaigners supporting those aspects. Then I realised in some sense that it wasn't that radically different from that I hear from family, friends and campaigners supporting the supposed opposite aspect. 

Abraham, no apologies required, unless they are on my side for releasing my inner curmudgeon. Have you seen the following?

John, very interesting the ways of science transmition....jiji

Abraham, I m happy that you could laugh with some, that is the be depressed it is need for a while, to cry as well...but as we can see the landscape the humour could give, actually, many ways too follow much is not a process of denay, is a way to aboard many aspects...

I have others, and if I have time I will do a special number of the New Magazine of Social Science

When I have to contain my laugh, opinions and words or something is going to be in the elite rocket to the clouds...


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