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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Lee, thanks for the information about Haldeman.

Erratum: "reads on the internet" was not intended as innuendo, simply a warning that in commenting I hadn't yet done a critical review of the relevant data.

But returning to the question at hand. We know that Trump's victory was the result of his winning a handful of rust-belt states that he was expected by the punditocracy to lose. Given that Clinton won the nationwide popular vote, there ca be no denying that his victory was due in large part to something we were discussing just the other day,, i.e., institutions. We know that culturalogical analysis of the kind now being examined omits, as American anthropology generally does, both institutions and demographics. This may not invalidate the insights provided by people who closer to the ground than pundits-on-the-coasts. It does require some consideration when projecting those insights into an as yet unknown future or making sweeping generalizations about what is happening to the country as a whole.

I do agree, however, that it would be great if Keith could persuade Max to join the conversation.

    Trump's victory due to institutions.  Not following here.  Which institutions?  How did they assure Trump victory? 

Institutions: The electoral college. State control of election management by states. Laws that allow secretaries of state (or officials with other titles) to make decisions about the location and staffing of polling stations and the allocation of old or new voting machines. Why was it, for example, that in Cincinnati, OH 4,000 people were forced to stand in line for most of a day to vote while in Fairfax, VA, my daughter's subdivision had two polling stations, one within five minutes walk of her home? Why is it that a Federal judge threw out a North Carolina voting plan described as "planned with pinpoint accuracy to exclude black voters"? Lots of institutions to look at. 

That these institutions "assured" Trump's victory may be a stretch. There is no question whatever that they facilitated that victory and deserve a place in any account of how the victory was won. Given that Clinton's lead is now in excess of two million in the nationwide popular vote, how could Trump have won without the institutions that weighted votes in the rust belt more heavily than those on the coasts?

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/26/fidel-castro-cuba-rev...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdDwhZTp-kQ

New moments in the history of end and begining are in the present and opened a new era outside the Anthropology, how they are going to affect in it? How the Anthopology is going to explain them? How Anthropology is going to give something to the society with these new challanges? ..because we must observe, describe, create categories, to see and show the invisible, to go through the tabues...etc. etc.....how, when, with what..for what? What will be the place of Antheopology and Social Sciences in this new age we are living...it is not a game of glass ball...to play with glass ball is not to do science it is the frame to justify in some years a continuity of complains and cryings and nothing in Anthropology. ...Mind the gap!

Cecilia

Cecilia,

May I ask, is your "game of glass ball" a reference to The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse? 

If so, a pointed reference, indeed.



John McCreery said:

Cecilia,

May I ask, is your "game of glass ball" a reference to The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse? 

If so, a pointed reference, indeed.

Ja ja ja ..
..NO, I m more prosaic ...

this is to play the "glass ball"-look the photo- is we dont change many ways of analyse...like the photo...we spend a lot of hours without looking what is going on...it is a methaphoric and jocking way to point what I see ...um, um, um!

Don´t forget that as well I m in "Theindiscipline.com" and as well "Slow Anthropology"

C

Attachments:
Now I see. A more literal translation of "bola cristal" is "crystal ball." Instead, "glass ball" led me to "glass bead" and Herman Hesse.Given the image, I see my mistake, but I wonder if it isn't a productive one. Which is a better representaqtion of the contemporary state of anthropology or social science more generally? A fortune teller who doesn't look up at what is going on around her or scholars playing their elaborate game, equally oblivious to the world around them?

Thanks for this message, ..Yes!

I put here , for example... in the social practice very intensive, if we look the past, how is growing.. in this age, women speaking more opened about sex and poltics... the press https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/video/2016/nov/30/vagina-d... where are we..in some moments we are...but ...this feature of the present how is afecting in all anthropologicals works that we are carry on? In spite, even they have no a direct relation, ..well always it seems not have link..jajaja

This present has enough to see , there is an overlap to understand and probably that push very much  to be "with the crystall ball" because we don´t have still many crierias , we are very polarized, we dont put in relation paradoxically, many points of the social life..sometimes I wonder why, sometimes no. I consider it is a discipline position alwyas.. to be beside, inside, or outside the "crystall ball" methodology, analyses..etc...  

As you know I like jocking and as well to show ideas with graphics, in this case I tried with some in relation with "crystall ball" in relation with it.

Image result for posiciones con respecto a una circunferenciaImage result for posiciones con respecto a una circunferenciaImage result for posiciones con respecto a una circunferencia

Image result for posiciones con respecto a una circunferenciaRelated imageRelated imageImage result for posiciones con respecto a una circunferencia

When I listen this is what I hear:

7+ Billion Moving People, I cannot even begin to understand that number. Its scary.

We are special, our Culture is special. It will get lost in this mess. (enter Farage)

We were meant to get Our (?) Dream. We are entitled to it.

Oh look lets watch the Apprentice (cue Ritual Space and Ritual Games Master Trump).

Winning is a Game. Games Make Sense. Life Makes Sense. We can vote in this Game. 

Look the GamesMaster cheats in real life. Look he doesn't even care about the incest rule. Look how much he always goes on about caring for his family. Nobody understands real life, but he makes people play his game.

Look we can join the GamesMaster's family. He will win at real life for us. Look people are caught up i his Game

Voting is a Game anyway. Lets beat the people who think they understand it.

Welcome to Incoherent Ritual Gaming where Ritual/Reality are confused aka Life Today (or always?)

(Pretty similar to much of social-science as far as I can see, except some people have guns/missiles)

Social science? Or the froth generated by pundits and trolls and the rest of us who pontificate online about things of which we actually know very little?

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