The Lively Science is Michael Agar's accessible, idiosyncratic, often humorous, and sometimes controversial explication of his own polestar truth: "Research on humans in their social world by other humans is not a traditional science like the one created by Galileo and Newton." However, if the social world is not a lab, neither is it a collection of random events.
The book lays out a clear, straightforward path to carrying out the basic scientific tasks of forming questions and answering them to explore and account for that non-randomness. The author deploys myriad engaging examples drawn from a lifetime of applied and basic research to demonstrate how human science researchers can produce discoveries that are scientifically defensible and useful in the real world. Agar grounds his how-to guide in an approachable discussion of epistemology and draws on thinkers whose writings may be unfamiliar to many social scientists. He blends that work with new intellectual tools, such as complexity theory, disasters research, and conversational analysis. The result is an innovative and practical methodology that is true to the realities and surprises of research by and about humans, yet preserves scientific standards of falsifiability, empiricism, logic, and systematic presentation of results.
This book represents the best of Michael Agar's visionary work. With a new foreword by Michael Brown celebrating Agar's enormous contribution to social science methodology, The Lively Science is for all researchers who seek to explore the full potential of a human social science.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Behavioral/Social Science—An Oxymoron? Chapter 2. Experiments and Real Worlds Chapter 3. The Road to HSR Is Paved with Everyday Intentions Chapter 4. Taking HSR to Court Chapter 5. The Heartbreak of Monotony Chapter 6. When Researcher Meets Subject Chapter 7. Human Social Science
Michael Agar (1945-2017), Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of Maryland, USA, was an influential, boundary-defying anthropologist known particularly for his work in ethnographic methodologies, transdisciplinary theory, and policy application. Post-retirement, he founded the global ethnographic consulting company Ethknoworks, LLC and held appointments at the University of Buenos Aires, the International Institute of Qualitative Methods at the University of Alberta, Surrey University (England), and the University of New Mexico. Trained as a linguistic anthropologist in the Language-Behavior Research Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, Agar was the author of nine monographs and more than a hundred articles on topics that ranged widely, including complexity theory, organizational cultures, drug policy, conversation analysis, and independent trucking.
"Michael Agar and I shared a devotion to the science in social science, though we came at it from different directions. In 2013, in this wonderful book, Mike captured those directions with two labels: HSR (human social research) and BSS (behavioral science research). I'm glad to see this book being re-published so that more students and colleagues can engage with it. Read this book carefully. As with all of Mike’s books, it’s thought provoking and a delight to read. I only wish Mike were here so that I could provoke him back." -- H. Russell Bernard, Director, Institute for Social Science Research, Arizona State University, USA
"The Lively Science is a brilliant, necessary book. In his trademark kind-to-the-reader style, Agar lifts "the fog of academia" to model evidence-based research for practitioners facing real-world challenges and to erect sturdy bridges over needless quantitative/qualitative divides. A stunning achievement." -- Deborah Winslow, Senior Scholar, School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA