Comparative Studies in Society and History

Disciplinary Delimitations

The Social Construction of Population Science: An Intellectual, Institutional, and Political History of Twentieth-Century Demography

Susan Greenhalgha1

a1 University of California at Irvine

Demographers have often lamented their field's reputation as one of “all methods and no theory.” Pushed by advances in computer technology and pulled by the appeal of being the “hardest,” most scientistic of the social sciences, the field has grown ever more sophisticated in mathematical technique. At the same time, theory has languished, becoming increasingly narrow and divorced from the realities of a rapidly changing post-Cold War world (McNicoll 1992). Leading members of the field routinely bemoan this state of affairs, though proposals for remaking the discipline are rarely offered (Preston 1993; Keyfitz 1993).