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A great reference on this subject is American Progressives and German Social Reform, 1875-1920 by Axel R. Schäfer. According to Schafer, American students of the nascent social sciences sought knowledge in Germany in the middle to late 19th Century, and found, in the Germans' sophisticated critique of the early enlightenment, useful criticisms of the American system of that time.
Really, let's just boil this right down instead of going on and on about it. The thinkers like Locke or Adam Smith, or Even Isaac Newton, provide apparently unsophisticated models of the world, mostly because they view the world as separate from man, that is, as objectively knowable through rational inquiry. While German philosophy is based on the occult understanding of the world, that is, all understanding is subjective. (As above, so below.) So for example, in a field like economics, the objective understanding might be that a man makes a rational decision about the price of a commodity, while the subjective view sees the outcome of a purchase as the result of a psychological process.
Paradoxically, strangely, and really perversely the application of this method of thinking and inquiry about human beings tends to objectify them. That is, the study of the less-conscious action of "people" necessarily requires a higher level of consciousness or alertness on the part of the inquirer. So, inexorably the great mass of people come to be viewed as lab rats by the knowers, while the knowers take on the roll of priests and priestesses. Similarly, by viewing human history as conditional and arbitrary, it gives the knowers and technocrats carte blanche to manipulate and shape the future.