Objectivity and values in sociology

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  • Can Sociology be value free?
    • Values = people’s own subjective beliefs and opinions. If social research is value free then it means that it is free of the personal biases of the researcher.
    • Positivism – Claimed that sociology could be value free using scientific methods which meant the researcher was as detached as possible.
    • Interpretivists criticise this – values creep into the quantitative research process – through the social construction of statistics for example.
      • Positivism – Claimed that sociology could be value free using scientific methods which meant the researcher was as detached as possible.
    • Interpretivists say we need to understand people’s values to understand how they act! However, it is harder to remain value free when doing qualitative research.
      • Interpretivists criticise this – values creep into the quantitative research process – through the social construction of statistics for example.
      • Weber argued that we could collect objective date on people’s values but we needed to be explicit about our own values all the way through the research process.
      • Howard Becker argued sociologists should take the side of the underdog and give them a voice
      • Marxist and Feminist sociology is also value laden in its choice of research topic – Sociology should be aimed at achieving political
      • Postmodernists believe objective knowledge is not possible
      • Constructing objective knowledge is a problem in contemporary sociology because knowledge is reflexive – it is part of the society it comes from – thus we need to careful to make our own value and opinions clear throughout the research process so that others can make an informed judgement about the usefulness of our research.

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