On p. 43 he identifies "giving an account of the nature of social phenomena in general" as "the central problem of sociology." I think this gives some idea of what he means when he talks about social sciences wanting to be (or being wanted to be) like natural sciences: the goal is general laws or the identification of general patterns.
On p. 88 he says that "a historian or sociologist of religion must himself have some religious feeling if he is to make sense of the religious movement he is studying." This might sound controversial, but he goes on to use the example of a historian of art needing to have some aesthetic sense in order to understand "the problems confronting the artists," which seems reasonable, if perhaps a little vague, to me. Without such a sense, he says, the historian would only provide "a rather puzzling external account of certain motions which certain people have been perceived to go through." He does not deny that it is possible to give this kind of account. All he denies is that it would be a history of art.
The last passage I want to quote is on p. 93:
I am not denying that it is sometimes possible to predict decisions; only that the evidence on which such predictions are based must be different in kind from that on which scientific predictions are based.Historical trends are in part the result of intentions and decisions, he explains.
It seems to me that Winch denies that meaningful behavior can be studied simultaneously qua meaningful and in just the same way that scientists study the meaningless behavior of atoms or cells. And that seems right to me. (It also seems to me that his work might usefully be read alongside Anscombe's work on intention, but that's probably another story.)
Now, what does Lerner say about Winch? He gathers together and discusses a range of criticisms of Winch's work, which seems valuable in itself to me. He also makes a strong case that Winch has got the Azande wrong. But what seems to me to be his key claim is, as he summarizes it on pp. 3-4, this:
I criticize Winch (and Norman Malcolm) for not appreciating that a naturalistic inquiry into the human cognitive capacities that underlie rule following could serve as the subject of an explanatory science of uniquely human behavior. Furthermore, I point out that the application of a rule to substantially unfamiliar circumstances is precisely the situation in which "meaningless" causal factors are most likely to determine human behavior.This is a fair point, I think, but the study of meaningless causal factors and human cognitive capacities would not, it seems to me, count as social science as Winch understands it. That kind of thing would be natural science, which Winch has nothing against.
What about the usefulness of social science for policy-making? A friend of mine is an expert on African politics and sometimes shares his expertise with people in Washington, DC. Winch says nothing against the idea that this might be a good thing. All that I think he would deny is that this kind of expertise is scientific expertise, rightly understood. Much that goes by the name of "social science" might be very useful, as Lerner rightly points out, but I don't read Winch as meaning to deny this. So, although I'm aware that I might be chickening out of an unwelcome confrontation, I think it's possible to agree with Winch and Lerner to a large extent. Winch explains what social science cannot be, while Lerner points out what it nevertheless can be. Both are, for the most part, right.
OK, what have I missed or got wrong?