Topic 5: Explanations of inequality through the intersection of different factors

explaning inequality through the intersection of differnent factors/ remaing methodological issues.

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The spesification expects you to understand that none of the factos descibed above gender, class, ethinicty, age stand in isolation. Cleadrly we all have a class, age, race and gender which interact to create different life chances and identiities. Usung skeggs work we can see that ideas of femininiy can relate to social class so what it means to be female may depend upon your social class. Similaraly in the Joseph Rowntree Foundation we see that a chinease ethnic identiy may impact on ones experience as an elderly person.

Sociological perspectives may veiw some factors as more important than otehrs for example marxists priorotise class over everything else while fems see gender as the most ipotant, post mods argue there are so many complex identities avalible that gneralisations about "women" or "black people" are non sensical since differences within each of these groups are as important as differences between the groups.

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Remaining methological issues


Sampling is the process of selecting a group fo respondents from your taget population many reaserches use a sampling frame to gain assess to thier sample and make it more representative however to get hold of a sampling grame or gain access to a sample reasercher sometimes need a gate keeper who has acess and may grant it in the form of an introduction to others in the target population of by granting access to lists or files which otherwise may not be avalible.

Random sampling

  • simplest way to select a large sample ensurin each sample unt has an equel chance of being chosen to ake part in the reaserch often acheived by assigning numbers to each sample unit and selecting members of the sample using a random number table a bit like taking names out of a hat.
  • not ideal- relies on statistical probability to ensure represntativeness and based on law of averages and a relatively large sample is needed for the reaserchcer to be confident that the sample will be genuninely representative reaserchers therefore generally prefer to use stratified random sampling.
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Remaining methological issues 2

Stratified random sampling

  • Involves the division of the sampling frame into groups in order to ensure the sample is representative. The reasercher identifies the important variables that need to be controled and allocates the sampling units to diffrent groups according to these varriables. ie the reasrcher may identify gender and class as importnat variables in this case the pop would be divided into wc male, wc femlaes, mc males, mc females the sample would then be selected at random from each group ensurign the proportions of the sample in each categoriy were the same as the propotions in the pop as a whole. if 20% of the pop were wc females 20% of the sample would be wc females.
  • This is an effective method of choosing a representative sample as it allows the reasercher to control the variables that are important and requires a smaller sample size to ensure representativness than random sampling. However stratified rangdom sampling is often impractical even if the sampling frame is avalible it doesn't contain the information neccacary to divide the pop into groups.
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Remaining methological issues 3

Quota sampling

  • Allows reasercher to contorl variables without having a sampling frame. When quota sampling is used the interveiwers are told how many respondants with particulrar characteristics to question so the overal sample refelcts the characteristics of the pop as a whole. Ie an interviewer may be required to administer a questionair to ten married females and ten married males aged between 20 and 35, five unmaried mena dn women of the same age group and so on. Once the quota from a cattegory has been filled responces will no longer be collected frm this cattegoy.
  • Particularaly ueful mehtod of sampling when the overall proportions of different groups within a pop are known. Goverment pop stats could be used to set the quota for a representative sample of different age groups in the British pop.
  • Despite the simplicity of quota sampling it s not turely random as each person in the pop doesn't have an equel chance of being chosen i.e a reasercher stopping people on a particular street at a particular time can only question people who happen to be there. The lack of genuine randomness may distort the results ie a reasercher for a political opnion poll who questions people 11 o clock in a city center would be unlikely to gin much respoce from those who work in the surrounding rural area.
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Remaining methological issues 4

Quota sampling continued.

  • Qota sampling usually requires a resercher to ask a number of personal questins to determine if the respondant has the characteristics of a quota group on which information is required asking such questions at the start of an interveiw may put off some interveiwees and put others on their guard so that their responces arent as open and honest as they otherwise have been.
  • Williams- points out that it can bedifficult to fill quotas of people from minority groups such as religions and cults.
  • Snowballing
  • is a very specialised type of sampling any ususally only used when other methods aren't pracitcal involving using personal contacts to build up a sample of the group to be studied most apropriate where theres no sampling frame and example sof the people to be studied are rare and wide spread and where people of interest are more likely to know eachother and help the reasercher find more contacts.
  • Laurie Taylor- pursuaded John Mc Vicar a former criminal to obtain introductions to members of the london underworld of proffessional crime then using these introducitons to gain more. For groups such as proffessional criminals it may be the only way of gianing a sample.
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Remainign emthological issues 5

Purposeful sampling

Used when the reasercher chooses people who fit their purpose i.e they seek a paticular type of peoson similar to quota sampling but less rigourous.

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Methodology, vlaues and objectivity

Many of the founders of socciology beleived sociology could and should be value free early positivists such as compte and Durkheim argued that objectivity was obtainable by adopting a scientific methodology. Marx also beleived that his sociology was scientific and objective although he saw society very differently. Wber didn't think complete value freedom was possible but that once a topic of reaserch had been chosen the reasercher could be objective arguigng that sociologists shouldnt make value judgements- shouldn't state what aspects of society they found to be desirable and undesairable.

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Values and objectivity: Functionalists and marxist

  • Functionalists: have been accused of holding politically conservative views in assuming that existing social institutions seve a useful pupose implying that existing social institutions seve a useful purpose implying that anything other than slow evolutionary change is harmful to society.
  • Marxists- few would claim marx's sociology was free from his political and moral belifs arguing that his desire for proletariate revolution influcenced most aspects of his reaserch.
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Values and objectivity 3

Weber's- work odten apears more value free than that of funcs or marxists but theres no doubt his personal vlaues effect his work.

Even if thats true then such emmemt sociologists allowed their valeus to impeach on their reaserch it doesn't neccacaraly mean that complete value freedom is impossible to many contemporary socs theres however no prospect of a completely value free sociology as total objectivity is impossible as values inevitably enter every stage of the production of sociological knowledge.

Weber recognised that values would influence the choice of topics for stdy arguing that the sociologist had to have some way of choosing from the infinite aspects of social life to be studied reaserchers would choose topics they thoigjt were important adn more significantly which they thought were of central importance to society. The values of other socs have also been evident in their choice of topics to reaserch marxists have shown the importance they attach to inequality in their studies of wealth, income and stratification. Fems have revelaed their values by deciding ts important to study aspects of social life such as dom violence and housework. Simply by selecting an issue to study sociologists reveal  what aspects of society they beleive are significant.

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Values and objectivity 4

  • A sociologist also uses their own opinions and values to decide if quantiative or qualitative methods are used in designing and carying out reaserch all reaserchers have to be selelvive when producing a questionaire or planning an interview some questions have to be chosen and others excluded the choice will be influenced by the theories and hypothesis to which a particular reasercher attaches credibility once the data has been collected reaserhs need to interpret the results and often the results don't speak for themselves.
  • Interpretive socs have tended to be very critical of those using quantitative methods they aruge that many socs simply impose their own veiws of reality onto the social world and as a result they distort and misrepresent the very reality they seek to understand. Reaserch techniques such as interveis, questionairs and social survyes are a part of this proccess of distortion they come between the sociologists and the social world and so remove any oportunity he or she may have of discovering social reality.
  • From this point of veiw direct observation of everyday activities provides the most likely if not only means of obtaining vlid noledge of the social world htis at least allows reaserchers to come face to face with the reality they seek to understand since the social world is seen to be a construction of its members that world can only be understood in terms of membrs categories and constructs.
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Values and objecitivty 5

While interpretivists may be looking in the right direction the prob;em of validity remains unsolved though face to face with social reality the observer can only see the social world through his or her own eyes no two sociologists will veiw the world the same a participant observer cant note and record everything they see and like the sociologit devising the questionaire most be selective. In these cicomstances the reaserchers values will infulence what evens they beleive to be important.

Crritical reaserchers beleive its imortant to understand how the social world is seen from hte veiwpoint of those being studied however they don't accept that this alone will produce objective knowledge to them its also important to look beyond the commonsense knoledge of people to uncover the strucures of oppression which lie behind everyday life however critics beleive that the oppresive structures they discover simply reflect their own predudices fems will always find patriarchal oppression marxists will fidn class exploitation, critical gay socs will find homophobia and anti racists will find racism.

Becuase of these sorts of considerations Philips- "an investigators values influecne not only the problems he selects for study but also his methods for studying them adn the sources of data he uses.

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Values and objectivity 4: conclusion

Weber- argues that sociologists values should be kept out of their reaserch and they shouldn't make value judgements

Gouldner- regrds this as dishonest since sociologists must have their valus they should be open about them so others can decide to what degree they have impacted on the reaserch.

Some postmodernists such as lyotard- reject alltogether the posisbility of producing objcetive knowledge arguing that the creation of all knowledge is just a language game which can be judged in terms of its saleability. Theres no way of distinguishing between true and unture knowledge, no way of being objective. Formany post mod writers knowledge simply reflects he veiwpoint and values of different social groups no one veiwpoint and set of values is superior to the other.

(see postman for the big old inspirational final qoute.)

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