Is Sociology a Science?


Positivism vs. Interpretivism


believe that science uses established methods and procedures and this can be applied to social science

social facts can be observed objectively, measured and quantified

Analysis of statistics can reveal correlations and causes and ultimately laws of human behaviour

they believe that the use of scientific method is highly desirable

This is entirely depends on your definition of science


reject the view that scientific method is suitable for sociology

statistics are social constructions and so we can reject the idea of finding laws of human behaviour

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it is highly desirable that sociology should be a science, but it should be deductive (starting with a theory) rather than inductive (starting with a general hypothesis leading to a theory)

Popper argues for the Fallacy of Induction - that is we must falsify something to prove it, black and white swans

A good theory is falsifiable when tested but stands up to all attempts to disprove it, it is also bold and claims a great deal

This means:

most of sociology is unscientific as it can't be falisified

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A paradigm is a set of norms and tells scientists how they should think and behave, they accept this paradigm uncritically due to their socialisation

normal science means scientists engage in problem solving, knowing the question and answer, just filling in detail

scientific revolution occurs when anomalies grow, the paradigm declining in strength, crisis period begins until a massive shift to a new paradigm

sociology is pre paradigmatic meaning it is pre scientific, it will only become a science when disagreements end

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scientists may be less objective than they claim

when studying rats brains, unknown elements were blamed on faulty microscopes rather than new discoveries

this shows many researchers are not prepared to dismiss years of research on the basis of one piece of evidence

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Science is undesirable for sociology, however there are similarities between natural and social sciences


closed system - researcher can control and measure all relevant variables and make precise predictions

open system - researcher cant control and measure all variables and so cant make precise predictions = sociology

Keat and Urry

Rejecting positivism - science is only concerned with observable phenomena, we should also look at unobserable structures

Rejecting interpretivism - actors meanings are in the mind, this should not be a barrier to being a science

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