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Contingent Eclecticism



For more than a century, methodological diversity within the social sciences has been the source of recurrent paradigm wars, and no obvious winner seems to be in sight. The aim of this article is to explore the contingencies underlying this diversity. It is argued that the shared condition of complexity forces us to adopt a pragmatic perspective from which even relevant ontological and epistemological assumptions should be thought of as contextual rather than absolute. In particular, the extent to which social causality is perceived as stable and universal vs. dynamic and contextual and the extent to which research-related reflexivity is an issue appear to set apart the different approaches. Towards the end of the article examples of methodological fit and misfit are provided to illustrate the relevancy of the “contingent eclecticism” observed in practice.