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Real Social Science
Applied Phronesis


Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman, Sanford Schram, Arthur W. Frank, Stewart R. Clegg, Tyrone S. Pitsis, Corey Shdaimah, Roland Stahl, Leonie Sandercock, Giovanni Attili, Steve Griggs, David Howarth, Tricia D. Olsen, Leigh A. Payne, Andrew G. Reiter, Virginia Eubanks, William Paul Simmons, Ranu Basu
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  • Date Published: April 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521168205

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About the Authors
  • Real Social Science presents a new, hands-on approach to social inquiry. The theoretical and methodological ideas behind the book, inspired by Aristotelian phronesis, represent an original perspective within the social sciences, and this volume gives readers for the first time a set of studies exemplifying what applied phronesis looks like in practice. The reflexive analysis of values and power gives new meaning to the impact of research on policy and practice. Real Social Science is a major step forward in a novel and thriving field of research. This book will benefit scholars, researchers and students who want to make a difference in practice, not just in the academy. Its message will make it essential reading for students and academics across the social sciences.

    • Develops the idea of a phronetic social science beyond the original formulation
    • Will appeal to methodologists working in research traditions that combine different analytical techniques
    • All contributions, introductory and concluding chapters have had the benefit of three editors with long and active research backgrounds and have been written with one 'authorial voice'
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Built on Flyvbjerg's commitment to social science that 'matters', Flyvbjerg, Landman and Schram's volume enriches the field with theoretical and methodological arguments and case studies extending and contending with each other in diverse locales and levels of social intervention. Anyone interested in socially transformative social science will gain from it.' Davydd J. Greenwood, Cornell University

    'A splendid collection that demonstrates the possibilities of a social science praxis that is contextual, reflexive, normatively engaged and yet also well-theorized and powerfully illuminating. A bracing step toward social understanding that is not straight-jacketed by the nomothetic cannons of laboratory science.' James C. Scott, Yale University

    'This book and this mission are of utmost importance and urgency. Phronesis, only phronesis, can save social science. We have no other hope.' Nassim N. Taleb, Polytechnic Institute of New York University and author of The Black Swan

    'What an important book! Bent Flyvbjerg and his collaborators have taken a decisive step forward in developing social scientific enquiries informed by an Aristotelian concept of phronesis. Their case studies disclose how much has remained invisible to other modes of enquiry.' Alasdair MacIntyre, University of Notre Dame

    'A landmark book in phronetic social science, expanding creatively on Flyvbjerg's innovative ideas through further theoretical elaboration and, most important, exemplary and insightful empirical applications. Eight case studies concretize phronetic practice and open new paths for moving beyond static social scientism.' Edward Soja, University of California, Los Angeles

    'Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis is the much-needed practical counterpart to the theoretical and methodological arguments advanced in Bent Flyvbjerg's (2001) Making Social Science Matter … The power of the book is in the case studies. The collection successfully conveys a profound collective wisdom across the various cases, substantiating the book's argument that in-depth, case-based research leads to a deep and actionable practical wisdom … With this volume, the contributors show that phronetic research is not a marginal, 'soft' or niche paradigm. These authors are big hitters, tackling socially significant questions with high stakes, and making [a] major academic and social impact. I felt … wiser after reading the book. I think that anyone interested in understanding how complex projects really work, or how to do research that makes a social contribution, would do so too.' Flora Cornish, LSE Review of Books (

    'This is an important book that addresses case-specific critical research theory, research methodology and ethical research practice.' Michael Gunder, Planning Theory and Practice

    'Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis presents itself as a cure for social scientists suffering from physics envy. Edited by Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman and Sanford Schram, the book assembles a rich collection of essays, which all purport to articulate a conception of social science as 'phronesis' … it does not only provide a theoretical discussion of the phronetic approach but also shows phronesis in action.' Arthur Dyevre, European Political Science

    'Perhaps most importantly, [phronetic social science] articulates a position that is a coherent alternative to both interpretivism and positivism, two poles around which so much social science inquiry has been framed. It also properly sidelines methodological questions - and debates about whether qualitative or quantitative data should be collected - by foregrounding the research question and emphasizing that the research question should matter. This is important as taught programmes on doctoral research in the social sciences spend considerable time teaching students how to conduct research and very little on how to formulate important research questions, which is where Flyvbjerg's idea of 'tension points' should be especially helpful. The literature on phronesis now includes, thanks to this book, quite detailed descriptions of how one should conduct phronetic research. We can only hope to see much more of this type of research in the future.' Ephemera

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521168205
    • length: 322 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.5kg
    • contains: 3 b/w illus. 2 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: new directions in social science Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman and Sanford Schram
    2. Phronetic social science: an idea whose time has come Sanford Schram
    3. Phronesis and narrative analysis Todd Landman
    4. The feel for power games: everyday phronesis and social theory Arthur W. Frank
    5. Phronesis, projects and power research Stewart R. Clegg and Tyrone S. Pitsis
    6. Why mass media matter, and how to work with them: phronesis and megaprojects Bent Flyvbjerg
    7. Power and conflict in collaborative research Corey Shdaimah and Roland Stahl
    8. Unsettling a settler society: film, phronesis and collaborative planning in small-town Canada Leonie Sandercock and Giovanni Attili
    9. Phronesis and critical policy analysis: Heathrow's 'third runway' and the politics of sustainable aviation in the UK Steve Griggs and David Howarth
    10. Amnesty in the age of accountability: Brazil in comparative context Tricia D. Olsen, Leigh A. Payne and Andrew G. Reiter
    11. Feminist phronesis and technologies of citizenship Virginia Eubanks
    12. Making the teaching of social justice matter William Paul Simmons
    13. Spatial phronesis: a case study in geosurveillance Ranu Basu
    14. Important next steps in phronetic social science Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman and Sanford Schram.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Cultural Analyses
    • EMPA Research Methods or Research Methods
    • History of Geographic Thought
    • Political Judgment
    • Research Design in International Relations
    • Research Writing
    • Seminar: Environmental Political Theory
    • Social Theory
    • Topics in Political Theory
  • Editors

    Bent Flyvbjerg, University of Oxford
    Professor Bent Flyvbjerg is Founding Chair of Major Programme Management at Oxford University's Saïd Business School and Director of the Oxford Centre for Major Programme Management. He works for better planning and management of megaprojects and cities, plus he writes about phronetic social science and case study research. Bent Flyvbjerg has served as adviser to the United Nations, the EU Commission and government and companies in many countries.

    Todd Landman, University of Essex
    Professor Todd Landman is Director of the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution at the University of Essex. He is a political scientist and has carried out numerous projects on the analysis and synthesis of data and complex governmental information as well being the author of several books and articles.

    Sanford Schram, Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania
    Sanford F. Schram has taught social theory and social policy at the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, Bryn Mawr College for the past fourteen years. He is an affiliate to the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. As well as being author of ten books he sits on the editorial boards of a number of journals, including the Social Service Review.


    Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman, Sanford Schram, Arthur W. Frank, Stewart R. Clegg, Tyrone S. Pitsis, Corey Shdaimah, Roland Stahl, Leonie Sandercock, Giovanni Attili, Steve Griggs, David Howarth, Tricia D. Olsen, Leigh A. Payne, Andrew G. Reiter, Virginia Eubanks, William Paul Simmons, Ranu Basu

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