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The Revivalism of Narrative: A Response to Recent Criticisms of Quantitative History

Kousser, J. Morgan (1984) The Revivalism of Narrative: A Response to Recent Criticisms of Quantitative History. Social Science History, 8 (2). pp. 133-149. ISSN 0145-5532.

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In his presidential address to the Social Science History Association Convention in November 1981, Robert William Fogel declared sanguinely that social scientific historians had won their battle for legitimacy within the historical profession in America, and that we should now stop feeling embattled, spend less effort proselytizing, and calmly go on with our substantive work. While his statistics on the occupational advancement of social scientific historians do indicate a degree of acceptance, and while his advice to worry less and pay attention to business will be followed (as that is what nearly all of us were doing anyway), I am less optimistic than Fogel, read the employment trends differently, and see more signs of a reaction against quantitative social scientific history-or what I like to refer to as QUASSH-than he does (Kousser, 1980). Perhaps Professor Fogel and I differ only temperamentally. As a former Marxist, he still retains a bit of faith in the inevitable triumph of progressive forces; as a former Methodist, I am unable to shake off the pessimism that is the psychological residue of the doctrine of original sin. In any case, whereas Fogel seems to think that most recent criticisms of QUASSH are so obviously flawed as to require no answer, I fear that some people, especially those with substantial investments in "history-as-it-used-to-be-done," may still be susceptible to false messiahs or, perhaps more precisely, false Jeremiahs.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:© 1984 Social Science History Assn. I would like to acknowledge the helpful comments of Stanley L. Engerman, David W. Galenson, and William T. Jones, and to grant anonymity to the many friends and colleagues who urged me, without notable success, to be a bit more reticent and conciliatory in the tone of the article. J. Morgan Kousser is Professor of History and Social Science at the California Institute of Technology. He has written on The Shaping of Southern Politics (1974) and is a leading spokesperson for Quantitative Social Science History. His recent papers include "Log-Linear Analysis of Contingency Tables," and "Are Expert Witnesses Whores?"
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Deposited On:03 Sep 2013 22:29
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