positivism theory

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positivism the theory

The logic, methods and procedures of the natural sciences can be applied to the study of society with few changes.

Early sociologist such as Comte described themselves as positives- behaviour in the social world is governed by laws in the same way that behaviour in the natural world

Durkheim consider social facts as things  

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social facts

Positivists- there are causes of things in the natural world, so there are social facts that cause events in the social world

Durkheim- aim of sociology should be to study these social facts, which should be considered as things- and in most cases be observed/ measured quant

Social facts – social phenomena that exist outside individuals but act upon ways that constrain their behaviour

Social facts are external, measurable and constraining 

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case study positivism and suicide

Durkihm wanted to study suicide to demonstrate that sociology was a sci

He believed that if he could show that an event that even such a highly individual act had social causes this would establish sociology status as a sci

Used quant data from official statistics, D observed there were patterns in suicide rates

Prosidents had higher suicide rates then Catholics 

Patterns not the product of individuals but were social facts-

The social facts responsible for determining suicide rates were the levels of integration and regulation  

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type of data preferred: quantitative

Definition: data that is presented in numerical form

Methods:  the use of official statistics, the experiment, comparative method, social surveys, structured questionnaires, formal structured interviews, non participant observation 

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Can identify trends over time

Can identify differences between key social variables 

High in reliability -easy to replicate 

Often involves large numbers- more likely to be representiave and generalizations to be made  

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Difficulties of operationalising key concepts

Often imposes the researches definition of what is important

Fails to consider meanings

Lacks validity  

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