Topic 1B social inequality

Methological issues how has social class been reaserched and how sucessful has this been.

HideShow resource information

intro

Poisitivists and interpretivists/ ethnographers have both reaserched into contemporary patterns and trends in social class. These two groups strongly dissagree on how it should be reaserched. 

1 of 8

Poisitivism and social facts

Compte -  beleived in the scientific study of society should be confined to collecting information about phenonoma that can be objectively observed and clasified. He argued sociologists shouldn't be concerned with the internal meanings, motives, emotions of individuals. Since these mental states exist only in the persons conciousness they cannot be observed and so can't be measured in an objective way. 

Durkheim- Argued socs should confine themselves to studying social facts arguing that you must consider social facts as a thing ie beleif systems,customs and institutions of society- the facts of the social world- should be considered as things in the same way as objects and events of the natural world. His example of this is the protestant catholic suicide rate. 

Moreover he didn't beleive social facts only consisted of things you could directly obsereve and measure but also phenonoma such as beleif systems, customs and institutions of society. He beleived they existed over and above individual conciousness. They aren't chosen by individuals or can be changed at will. Social facts such as the customs of a particular proffesion were externl to each individual and constrained their behaviour - that is each person had their options limited by the existence of customs and practices. 

2 of 8

Laboritories an feild experiments

  • The main reason scientists use labs is because it enables them to test precise predictions in exactly the way Popper advocates. labs are controlled enviroments where the reasercher can manipulate the carious indipendent variables however they wish. they can calculate the effects of a single independent variable while removing the posibility that any other factors are affecting the dependent variable they are studying.
  • however human behaviour can't be observed in a natural way in a lab i.e big brother contestants so often socs use feild experiments to try and emulate the natural sciences i.e Sissons- Observed public reactions when an actor asked them for directions the location was held constant (outside paddington station) but the apearence of the actor changed from being dressed as a buisness man to being dressed as a labourer he found the public were more helpful to a buisness man than a labourer. 
  • Brown and Gay- Conducted feild experiments in which they made bogus job applications by letter and telephone identifying themselves as from different ethnic groups (white, asian, afro caribbean) found that the aplications from non white candidates were less llikely to secure job interveiws than those from supposedly white candidates. 
3 of 8

Positivistm or interpretivism?

Despite the considerable influence of the "scientific" aproaches to sociological methodology an alternative series of interpretive or qualitative aproaches has long existed within sociology. They claim sicntific methods are inadiquete on their own or that their inapropriate in a subject that deals with human behaviour. Thus some sociologists who advocate the use of interpretavist qualitative  aproaches sugest they should be used to supplement "scientific" quantitative methodology: others that they should replace "scientific" aproaches.

4 of 8

Positivistm or interpretivism?

Despite the considerable influence of the "scientific" aproaches to sociological methodology an alternative series of interpretive or qualitative aproaches has long existed within sociology. They claim sicntific methods are inadiquete on their own or that their inapropriate in a subject that deals with human behaviour. Thus some sociologists who advocate the use of interpretavist qualitative  aproaches sugest they should be used to supplement "scientific" quantitative methodology: others that they should replace "scientific" aproaches.

5 of 8

Interpretivism

The interpretive aproach 

  • Sociologists who take an interpretive approach are usually the strongest advocates of qualitative data. They argue that the whole basis of sociology is the interpretation of social actoion. Social action can only be understood by interpretating the meanings and motives on which it is based.  Many interps argue theres litle chance of discoovering these meanings and motives from quantitative data only from qualitative with its richness and depth can the sociologist hioe t interpret the meanings that lie behind social action. 
  • Some interps  reject the use of natural science methodolody for the study of social action. They see the subject matter of the social and natual sciences as fundamentally different. The natural sciences deal with matter. Matter has no conciousness and since it has no conciousness its behaviour can be explained simply as a reaction to external stimuli. it's compelled to react in this in this way because its behaviour is essentially meaningless. Unlike matter, people have conciousness. They see, interpet and experience the world in terms of emanings; they actively construct their own social reality. Meanings don't have an indipendent existence a reality of their own which is somehow seperate from social actors they aren't imposed by an external society that makes them act in certain ways, instead they are constructed and reconstructed by actors in the course of social action.  It's the sociologists job to try and understand the interpretation given by the subjects of the investigation. Weber called this Verstahen.
6 of 8

Interpretivism continued

people don't react automatically to external stimuli as positivists claim, instead they interpret the meaning of a stimulus before responding to it. Motorists who see a red light won't automatically stop in responce to this stimulis they will attach a meaning to it before acting. Motorists might conclude that the light is a decoration on a christmas tree and not a trafic signal or alternatively that it indicates a nearby building is a brothel. Having established what the meaning of the stimulis is to their own satisfaction the motorists then decide how they wish to respond, motorists being chased by the police may chose not to stop, if the stimulus is regarded as decoration motorists may stop to admire it.

Whatever action the individual advocates the interpretive sociology would argue that the causal explanation of human behaviour is impossible without some understanding of the subjective stats of the individuals concerned. Thus a positivists might be content to discover what external factors led to a certain type of human behaviour, while an advocate of a more qualitative aproach would be interested in the meaning attached to the behaviour by those engaging in it. 

7 of 8

Interpretivism continued further

 i.e Douglas (1967)_  criticises the use of official stats in Durkheims study of suicide, questioning their validity he points out the decision of whether the death was suicide or not was made by the coroner  and the coroner may do all he can to say it was acidental so as to spare the family the pain of suicide (purgatory). Therefore he jejects the idea that theres such a thing as a social act as everything is up to interpretation. 

8 of 8

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Social stratification and inequality resources »