Living Off Dead Premises: The Persistence of Enlightenment Mentalities in the Making of Social Science

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Enlightenment beliefs in progress, development, growth, civilizing process and evolution have played a central role in the history of social science. After two world wars, influential scholars like Horkheimer, Adorno and Gehlen came to question Enlightenment premises. Science could no longer be taken as the paradigmatic human activity, as an activity that discovers truth. Yet, in spite of what such critical scientists had declared, enlightenment beliefs persisted in much scientific work. In this article, I endeavour to show to what extent Enlightenment premises underlie and permeate in the works of social scientists, and how the different political attitudes and mentalities of scientists are intricately related to different manifestations of such beliefs. This article provides a narrative of illustrative scholarly works, to show how such different attitudes and mentalities have shaped the making of social science throughout the history of modern politics. The purpose of such an overview of scientists is to rethink the vocation of social science in general, and political science in particular, by problematizing the relationship between science and Enlightenment premises – a relationship that, it is argued, has become more ambiguous in the current epoch.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)1-14
JournalEuropean quarterly of political attitudes and mentalities (EQPAM)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • METIS-312301
  • IR-97770

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