Why the Social Sciences?

The Research Group

The RG was concerned with the question of why we need the social sciences and what contribution they can make in modern societies. Although the social sciences have grown a lot over the last decades, and although they are better organised and their theories and concepts take on an important role in public debates, their role is being criticised and questioned. Two aspects are brought up regularly: an alleged over-specializing as well as the question of scientificity and the general use of the social sciences.


On the one hand, the social sciences are criticised for not predicting important social changes, for being too fragmented and over-specialized and having therefore lost the societal reference point. On a political level, on the other hand, the scientificity and the general use of the social sciences for society is questioned again and again. The demand, again and again, is to invest research funds into "proper science" such as biology, chemistry, geology or physics – fields in which discoveries would "actually improve the lives of every single one of us".

The RG was not about pitting scientific fields against each other. Rather, we wanted to work towards regarding different fields as equally important. In doing so, sorting out the different contributions of various fields was not the only task. A central question concerned the mutual influence. To what extent do the sciences need the social sciences (with ethical questions, politically relevant aspects, etc.), and how strongly have certain approaches and theories in the sciences influenced the work of the social sciences?

The involvement with these sorts of questions was to lead to self-reflection and encourage reflection on deficits in the various scientific fields. In the process, both scientific questions and questions of science policy were to be addressed.

Documentation of Events

In 2011, the RG organised an international conference together with cooperation partners.

Topic and Programm



  • Marc Helbling


    Marc Helbling
    Political Science
    Universität Mannheim
    Marc Helbling more
  • Tilman Brück

    Tilman Brück
    Development and agricultural economics
    ISDC - International Security and Development Center
    Tilman Brück more
  • Cornelis Menke

    Cornelis Menke
    Philosophy of Science
    Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
    Cornelis Menke more
  • Evelyn Runge

    Evelyn Runge
    Political Science / Media and Cultural Studies / Journalism / Photography
    Universität zu Köln
    Evelyn Runge more
  • Carsten Q. Schneider

    Carsten Q. Schneider
    Political Science
    Central European University, Vienna
    Carsten Q. Schneider more
  • Stefanie Walter

    Stefanie Walter
    Political Science
    Universität Zürich (Schweiz)
    Stefanie Walter more
  • Jadwiga R. Ziolkowska

    Jadwiga R. Ziolkowska
    Agricultural and environmental policy
    The University of Oklahoma (USA)
    Jadwiga R. Ziolkowska more