Value freedom

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Value freedom definition

Values or bias views and opinions should be kept out of research (modern positivist a favour)

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Three views on value freedom

1. Value free sociology (positivism)
2. Value freedom is not possible (interpretivism- Webber)
3. Sociology cannot and should not be value free (labelling-Becker, Marxism-Gouldner, feminism)

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1.Value free sociology (positivism)

Comte +Durkheim- creation of a better society by the science of society (uncover laws that govern society)=social problems can be solved.
They argue that if a study is well planned it is possible for the researchers personal beliefs to have no effect on the findings, and so results are completely objective like that of science experiments. They argue that the nature of sociological research is no different to that of any of the sciences e.g chemistry, this means that we are able to contrast and test hypothesis to find the cause of a phenomenon.

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2. Value freedom is not possible (interpretivism)

Webber argues that a value free sociology isn't possible, but they do play an important role in research:

Guide to research-social reality is made up of a meaningless infinity of facts, the best a researcher can do is select certain facts and study them. But the facts the researcher deems as important to study are based on their values.

Data interpretation- values become important again when interpreting data. The facts are set in a theoretical framework to understand their significance and draw conclusions, but the theoretical framework is influenced by our values.

Data collection- must be objective and unbiased as possible when collecting data e.g not asking leading questions so that values and prejudices are kept out of the process.

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3. Sociology cannot and should not be value free

Labelling (BECKER)- values are always present in sociology; instead of having the perspective of the overdogs e.g powerful groups or individuals like scientists, and adopt the underdog perspective e.g criminals, mental patients and other powerless groups. Sociologists usually work for authorities or organisations e.g government or police and so the research can't be value free.

Marxist (GOULDNER)- since 1950's, sociologists hire themselves out to agencies like the government and so by leaving their own values behind, they 'promise' not to rock the boat by criticising or questioning their paymasters.

Feminism- feminist research will be bias as it focuses primarily on female oppression in society. Feminists argue that male values are the biggest influence in sociological research.

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Interpretivists argue that there are no such things as 'social facts' but just different ways of interpreting social behaviour according to Thevalues of the researcher. However positivists say that sociologists can objectively observe, record and report on the 'factual' world, irrespective of their values.

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