Objectivity and values in sociology
- Can sociologists' research be 'value free' this question have divided sociologists for well over a century
- some argue that it is possible and desirable to keep subjective values out of resaerch in the same way as natural scientists are said to do. only in this way can we produce true, scientific knowledge about society
- others argue that coz sociologists are humans(with values) studying other humans(with values), it is impossible to keep personal values out of one's research
- some go futher, arguing that it is actually desirable for sociologists to use their values to improve society through their work. this is sometimes called committed to sociology
The classical sociologists and values
- For the early povisitivist COMTE and DURKHEIM, the creation of a better society was not a matter of subjective values or personal opinions about what was 'best'.
- they shared the Englightenment or modernist view of the role of society.
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- As science of society, sociology's job was to discover the truth about how society works, uncovering the laws that govern ts proper functioning.Eqipped with this knowlegde, social problems could be solved and human life improved
- in their view, scientific sociology would reveal the one correct society. this gave sociologists a crucial role. by discovering the truth about how society worked, sociologists would be able to prescribe how things ought to be.
- there is debate about whether or not Marx was a POVISITIVIST
- however, it is certainly true that he saw himself as a scientist and that he believed his method of historical analysis 7 materialism, could reveal the line of development of human society.
- this development involved an evolution through a series of different types of class-besed society, leadig ultimately to a future classless communist society, in which exploitation, alienatin and poverty would be ended, and each individual would be free to achieve their true potential
- the role of Marx's soiology, therefore, was to reveal the truth of this development, especially to the proletariat, since they would be class to overthrow capitalism and herald the birth of communist society
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- he is similar to comte and Durkheim, in sees science as helping to 'deliver' the good society
- Weber makes a sharp distinction between value jugements and facts and he argues that we can't derive he one from the other
- E.G, Research might establish the fact that divorcees are more likely to commit suicide. however, this does not logically demonstate the truth of the value jugdement that we should make divorce harder to obtain.
- there is nothing about the fact that logically compels us to accept the value. in Weber's view, a value can be neither proved nor disproved by the facts the belong to differnt realms
- however despite making a sharp distinction between facts and vlaues, weber still saw an essential role for values in sociological research. we can divide into 4 stages of the research process
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Value as a guide to research
- w took the idea from phenonology that socila policy reality is made up of a ' meaninggless infinity' of facts that make it impossible to study it in its totality. therefore the best the researcher can do is to select certain facts and study these
- in W'S view, we can only select them in terms of what we regard as important bsed on own values. values are thus essential in enabling us to select which aspects of reality to study and in developing concepts with which to understand these aspects
- e.g feminist value gender equality and this leads tem to study women oppression and to develop concepts such as pariarchy with which to understand it
Data collection and hypothesis testing
- while values are essential in selecting what to study, in W's view we must be as objective and unbiased as possible when we actually collecting facts, and this means keeping our values and prejudices out of the process.
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- once we gathererd these facts, we can use them to test hypothesis. agiain we must keep our values out of process- the hypothesis must stand of fall solely on whether or not it fits the observed facts
Values in the interpretation of data
- Values become imporatant again whwn we come to interepret that date we collected
- the facts need to be set in a theoretical frame work so that we can understand their sinificance and draws conclusions from them
- in W'S views, our choice of theoretical framework is influence by our values so that others can see if about them, spelling out our values so that others can see if unconscious bias is present in our interpretation of our data
Value and the sociologist as a citizen
- research findingd often have very real effects on people's lives, but sociologistsm and scientists sometimes choose to ignores the uses to which their work is put
- they argue that their job is merely to conduct objective research and discovers the fact; it is for the politicians or public to decide what use to make of their finding
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- W rejects this view. he argues that scientifics and sociollogists are also human beings and citizenzsand they must not dodge the moral and political issues their work raises by hiding behind words such as ' objectivity' or 'value freedom'.
- they must take moral resonsibility for the harm their research may do
- W sees values as revelant to the sociollgists in choosing what to research, in interpreting the data collect, and as a citizen and a memeber of society in deciding the use to which the findings should be put.
- by contrast, the sociologists';s values must be ikept out of the actual process of gathering the facts.
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