Positivism vs Interpretivism - Summary


Positivists - structuralism-Macro

Key Thinkers

Famous positivists include Comte, who is the father of sociology.

Others include Durkheim, father of functionalism who talks about social facts, anomie, atrophy etc.

& Marx, father of Marxism who sees capitalism as the main cause to inequalities within society.


Positivists argue that sociology should not be value laden but value free as theoretical bias can undermine sociology as a science. It makes research subjective rather than objective.

They believe that wider societal structures affects the behaviour of individuals. Use grand metanarratives, to explain whole of society as a whole. They also believe individuals are passive and conform to societal rules due to value consensus, social solidarity etc. They value the use of quantitative and empirical methods such as official statistics such as the British Crime Survey, precoded questionnaires and non-participant (covert) because it generates results that are reliable, valid and objective.

They prefer the use of deductive knowledge. By that it means that positivist sociologists use the hypothetico deductive method to reach to an ‘effective’ theory which may influence social policy.

Popper argued that the hypothetico deductive method relies on the principle of making an observation, from the observation a hypothesis is created. Then a experiment to test the hypothesis, then from the findings a conclusion is made. The conclusion will either reject/accept and prove/disprove an hypothesis.By sociologists using this method, it means that sociology is more of a science and therefore is more likely to gain funding from the government.

Popper further argued that a science is a science when it is open to his famous falsifiability principle. He also argues that a science is a science it




I forgot to add the postmodernists. Main theorists include: Giddens, Lyotard, Baudrillard etc.