Sociology and Values


Sociology and Values

The three viewpoints

  • Value free and should be value free
  • Value laden – inevitably bring value into research
  • Sociologists who want to bring values into their research to change society

Value free sociology

  • Positivists
  • They argue sociology should be studied as a science (Durkheim)
  • Objectivity is key (personal opinions out of research)
  • Sociology should be like physical sciences – studying phenomena which are independent of the research
  • Theories can be tested, proven or falsified
  • Structural theorists (society is separate)
  • Social facts are the statistics that are obtained from surveys and these should accurately reflect the population
  • Personal opinions are irrelevant so long as research is well designed
  • E.g. Peter Saunders – home ownership research – declared his own views but research was designed to avoid this
  • Research is checked by repeating research

Value laden sociology

  • Historical Context
  • Paying for research
  • Career Trajectories
  • Personal beliefs and interests
  • The domain of sociology
  • The postmodern critique
  • Foucault


Historical Context

  • Gouldner
  • Value free is based in a particular historical context
  • Weber suggested sociology was value free but he had to in order to secure sociology’s status rather than it actually needed to be value free.
  • Traditional values were ruled to be ignored but Weber may have been saying this to avoid the government interfering

Paying for research

  • There is more funding for research that interested them as funding is scarce and therefore the person paying chooses what is published and therefore values of the person paying and the researcher is thus interjecting values
  • People won’t pay for research they have no interest in


Career trajectories

  • Gouldner
  • A researcher’s research is likely to be influenced by their desire to be ‘known’ and their ability to develop their own career rather than studying in a value free way
  • Values will inevitably creep into sociology
  • According to




An excellent summary of sociological values which is greats to test knowledge. These could easily be converted into flashcards.

Maria Gunayon


Amazing thank you! 





superb thanks