HomeAsia-Pacific Social Science Reviewvol. 1 no. 1 (2000)

Open the Social Sciences

Immanuel Wallerstein



How were the social sciences constructed? In preparing our report we had to consider this question to understand the dilemmas of the social sciences. We started the story in the late 18th century by noting that the most important thing that happened was a kind of definitive divorce – I hesitate to use the word "divorce" – a break between science and philosophy.

Before that the terms were not quite totally interchangeable but very closely aligned. They both meant knowledge, and people did not make a strong distinction between philosophy and science. It was in the late 18th century that we saw the birth of C.P. Snow's "two cultures." Science was defined as the empirical, the search for truth through research, as opposed to what philosophers did, which was to speculate or make deductions in some way. It was a continuation of the break between philosophy and theology; this was taking it one step further, toward a thoroughly secularized knowledge system.