Taking abduction seriously: a case study based appraisal

A reminder that we will be meeting next Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019 for our
next Social Theory Workshop. Eva Hartmann will be presenting this week at
4:30 to 6pm, in room 2S3.

Abductive reasoning, as initially developed by Charles Sanders Peirce, is a form of logical inference which starts with an observation and then seeks to find the most likely or straight-forward explanation for the observations. I will present a case study that I recently conducted in order to illustrate how we can make use of this approach. I will outline how Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory helped me to better understand the introduction of a remote steering mechanism through external quality assurance in the sphere of higher education. It brings the challenges for knowledge production in an ever more complex society to the fore. But systems theory also provides me with an interesting framework for exploring the consequences of the most recent reform of external quality assurance that re-introduced a stronger governmental oversight. I will use Kosovo, Germany and the UK as cases to outline this trend but also to highlight important differences between these countries. Systems theory again provides an interesting framework for evaluating the differences in terms of the consequences for the country’s capacity to deal with complexity. In this sense, this theory provides indeed a good explanation for the observations I made in my empirical research. However, making use of this theoretical perspective has other, unintended consequences, as I will show. I will therefore use my case to open a discussion about what counts as the most likely or straight-forward explanation.