At the Crossroads of Paradigms: Considering Heterodoxy in the Social Sciences

Thomas Kuhn taught us that knowledge does not necessarily follow a simple path of incremental progress. Revolutions frequently take place when old paradigms are discredited and replaced by new models for the description and interpretation of the world. These revolutions are generally of an endogenous nature, with the change coming about as a result of the constant intellectual effort of scientists and theorists.

Yet changes in thinking are also often precipitated by outside forces. The cumulative effect of successive crises of relevance and applicability compels a revision of the existing paths of dependence and opens up fresh perspectives.

It seems eminently reasonable to suggest that we are currently living in just such a moment of potential paradigm change, one where old truths have lost their vitality and new ones have not yet been born. This awareness stimulates cognitive curiosity and creates a fertile ground for new ideas to be sown and paradigms germinated. Some of the ideas may have been with us already for a long time, circulating on the fringes of mainstream academic life, while others take enter the centre, helping reshape old intuitions. This gives us the chance to revive the social sciences, but also presents new risks related to the apparent attractiveness of simple interpretations and solutions.

How can we ensure that heterodoxies in social sciences lead to fertile new trends rather than intellectual dead-ends? We will focus precisely on these problems in Athens, one of the civilizational sources for the systematic reflection on humanity, its thinking, and its place in the world.