Interdisciplinarity: building bridges, and nurturing a complex ecology of ideas

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Much discussion of interdisciplinarity shows one or more of the following
defects: 1. conceptual confusion - lack of a refined and consistent set of terms for
analysing interdisciplinarity and its variants; 2. utopianism - lack of realism about
constraints and possibilities in the social organization of science; 3. monism -
advocacy of a single simple organizational model, rather than a complex
heterogeneous model with multiple niches, nodes and forms of interaction. The paper
offers a more refined, realistic, and pluralistic theory of interdisciplinarity. It makes
special reference to development studies, whose typical combination of a case-focus
and a concern for policy relevance guides it strongly to interdisciplinarity; and to
problems raised by the dominant economics conception of itself as a self-sufficient
alpha-status discipline. Beyond conceptualization (of a wide range of types of
interdisciplinarity) and diagnosis, the paper considers the potential of a number of
approaches that claim to offer ‘bridging capital’ - paths to effective interdisciplinary
social analysis - including social capital theory and entitlements analysis amongst
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages46
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2001

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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