Objectivity and Values in Sociology

class notes and notes from book


Some believe scientists take a detached and objective approach to their research, not allowing their subjectove values to get in the way of discovering the facts. Yet in reality scientists are influenced by lots of things such as their own identity, who is funding the research and their own background and belief systems. Sociologists are still members of society so it's impossible ot be completely objective

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Those Who believe it's possible and desirable to b

These include the natural sciences and postivists etc. COMTE AND DURKHEIM= Take the enlightenment view. They believe that the creation of a better society was not a matter of subjective values or personal opinion about what was best. they believed that scientific sociology would reveal the one correct society. by discovering the truth about how society worked, sociologists would be able to say objectively snd with scientific certainty what was really best for society. MARX= saw himself as a scientist. he took an evolutionary stance to sociology as he looked at how society has changed over the decades. He sees this scientific unsderstanding leading towards a logical truth i.e. discovering communism. Again science/ enlightenment delivers improvement, once we understand our human condition.

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Those who believe we are humans studying humans. T

WEBER= researchers are bound to choose to stuudy what interests them e.g. a man wouldn't study feminists concerns. Topics need value reference (not be random but should also be as scientific as possible). However, we can still make sure our actual research is as value free as possible by using a variety of methods and triangulation. When we interpret data we need to be honest and clear about our perspective so any readers will be aware of any bias the observer may have. Weber argues that sociologists must be aware of the use of their research afterwards. Research shouldn't harm society. GOULDNER= he sees the difficulties faced by sociology in the 1950's. Sociologists weren't free to decide what the could study as they were given set ideas by whoever was funding them. WEBER would be concerned with the possible lack of concern for the moral effects of their work. Sometimes work won't be published due to the results being unpalatable. E.g. the black Report in health was only released to hide government failure in other sectors. We should also bear in mind that individual researchers may not want to harm their careers so will produce neutral reports.

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Its desirable to use values to produce commited, p

OAKLEY- From here to maternity. She was inspired to do this research because of her own situation. She was also able to connect with the p's appropriately which helped her gain the results needed. GOULDNER= considers value free sociology to be impossible and actually undesirable. BECKER= takes things a stage further and asks sociology who's side they are on. Most sociological research is done for governments etc. Sociology should take on the role of the underdog like he does in his labelling theory. GOFFMAN  agrees. However, we must remember not too over romanticize the underdog! So interactionism will tend to be committed to the underdog, Feminists (and to an extent marxists) will be value commited (marxists possibly more value committed than Marx originally intended) and by contrast functionalists will be more neutral, trying to favour the establishment, uncritically accepting official stats produced by government departments.

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Conclusion- Relativism

So is it actually possible to gain a true image of society and therefore be value free? Relativism argues that all views are equally valid... there is no objective truth... just truths! Such as discourses of postmodernism and feminism. In reality it doesn't matter about values. We can try to be as scientific as possible in our methods... but ultimately, sociology is trying to explain the world we observe and make a difference, leading to the possible formation of social policies where needed

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