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Nurturing the democratic debate.  
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05-06-2002 10:00 pm Paris - What is social science about? This discipline, which involves collecting information about society to help guide political decisions, is a real tool for inquiry. The importance of social science however has varied according to era, country and ideological context. So reveals the report "Social Science in the World", co-edited by UNESCO and the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme in Paris, which has just come out in French ("Les sciences sociales dans le monde"). For the launch of the report, a round table has been organized between several scientists from France and abroad in Paris today, Thursday June 6, at 6:00 p.m.*.
"The emergence of new and more numerous scientific communities, and the increase ini the flow of information and the movement people help social science to slowly overcome [its] Eurocentrism and [its] America-centrism. (...) Today, the world can only be understood from a multiplicity of points of view," says the preface to the French edition.

Such varied perspectives are offered in the report, from authors from all regions of the world. It comprises two main parts.

The first, "A Global Picture", reviews the evolution of social sciences. Over the 20th century, social science gradually broke free from philosophy and history and acquired an independent status. In the West, its true rise dates from the 1960s. Tracking the huge social upheavals of that period, it took on a militant direction with research focused on the organization of labour, social classes, the capitalist state and sexuality...

In the former Soviet bloc, it was not until the 1980s that the new field of social science emerged. As such, in Russia, the report says, "major figures such as Sigmund Freud or Max Weber were never officially taught or known". In a similar way, in China this branch of science is now opening up to the rest of the world, while in the Arab countries the situation remains very different from one state to another. In Africa, even if we can now "take critical stances without fear of threats", struggling social scientists must still turn for funds to foreign organizations that tend to impose their own research priorities.

In general terms universities are no longer the only employers of social scientists. Consulting firms, polling institutes, international organizations and marketing services also require knowledge of peoples' behaviour and opinions.

The second part of the report, "Issues and Applications", looks at the way social science treats some of the major problems facing humanity today: science and technology, development, the environment and behavioural science.

· Presentation of the report on June 6, at 6:00 p.m. at the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme,
54 boulevard Raspail, Paris
Round Table with Maurice Godelier (EHESS), Margaret Maruani (CNRS), Valery Nosulenko (Russian Science Academy), Helgio Trindade (UFRGS, Porto Alegre), chaired by Jean-François Dortier (chief editor of Sciences Humaines)

Contact:
Monique Perrot-Lanaud,
Public Information Office, Editorial Section
Phone: 01 45 68 45 40
m.perrot@unesco.org






Source Media Advisory No.2002-21
Author(s) UNESCOPRESS



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