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On engagement and distance in social analysis: a reply to my critics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 December 2020

Friedrich Kratochwil*
Emeritus, Department of Political and Social Sciences, European University Institute, Florence, Italy
Corresponding author. E-mail:


The problem of ‘distance and engagement’ highlights the Weberian paradox that objectivity in the social sciences cannot be based on demonstrative proof; it has to take into account values as the constituents of our ‘interests’. Values should be explicit even if this ‘perspectivity’ cannot satisfy the criteria of necessity and universality. Allegedly, my skeptical approach to ‘social theory’ leaves researchers with insufficient ‘hope’, but one also learns from understanding that something is impossible or conceptually flawed. Moreover, deeper issues of analyzing social action, with existential and moral dimensions, should be considered. These involve our cognitive capacities, experiences, and emotions.

Symposium: In the Midst of Theory and Practice: Edited by Hannes Peltonen and Knut Traisbach
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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