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Can and should sociology be science?

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Can and should sociology be science? By definition, sociology refers to systematic study of human behavior and society whilst science literally means knowledge collected in a systematic manner. It is a popular debate in sociology concerning whether sociological research should adopt similar methods to those of natural science. There are 3 main approaches relevant to this debate, those being the positivism, phenomenology and realism. First of all, positivists would argue that sociology can and should be a science. This is because positivists believe that some features of natural science can be found in the area of sociology. Positivists argue that sociology has methods and theories like science. Sociological study is empirical in the explanation of social world. As well as scientist, sociologist collects data as evidence in order to verify a theory. For example, the studies of Mods and skinheads conducted by Stanley Cohen in order to verify Marxist sub-cultural theories. Hence, positivist would support the view that sociology can and should be a science. However, phenomenologist would reject the view. For phenomenologist, studying the social world is fundamentally different from studying the natural world. Alfred Schutz argues that social world cannot be objectively observed and measured. Unlike inanimate objects, both sociologist and subject matters are human with consciousness. ...read more.


Hence, phenomenologists argue that there is no objective reality beyond these subjective meanings. Furthermore, Max Weber rejects the possibility of finding laws of human behavior as well as the causal and correlation relationship of a behavior as he argues that individual possess different meanings and motives to their actions. Weber identified various types of action that are distinguished by the meanings attached, those being the affective, emotional, traditional and rational action. These actions are attached with subjective meanings which cannot be measured objectively. As such, Weber argues that instead of adopting scientific methodology, understanding of human behaviors can be achieved through Verstehen. Therefore, Weber argues that sociology should not adopt the methods of science. However, feminist would argue that even if sociology adopts scientific methodology, the date collected will still be unobjective. Feminist claimed that science is a male world where women have always been exploited or excluded. For example, Hilary rose stated that it is male science that seeks to control women's fertility through contraception and childbirth. As well as Sandra Harding who argued that male central science claimed to have prone women as biologically and socially inferior to men. Therefore, feminist argue that sociology is just as unobjective even if it emulates the achievements and aspirations of natural science as it itself is bias. ...read more.


Besides, Auguste Comte's view that sociology should be a science. He believes that scientific knowledge about society could be accumulated and uses to improve human existence so that society could be run rationally without religion or superstition getting in the way of progress. Moreover, through scientific methodology, sociological knowledge obtained can be more credible as it is empirically, rigorously, and systematically tested. Hence, Comte argues that sociology should be a science. As a matter of fact, Karl Popper sees it as highly desirable that sociological research method can be based on methods of natural science. However, he argued that science must adopt the deductive method where facts are only admitted into a theory through the process of falsification. Science must abandon the inductive method of attempting to make theories fit facts. For example, although 999 white swans may have been observed floating past a point on river, it is illogical to assume the next swan will also be white. Therefore, popper suggests that science itself can strive to be a more rigorous science. Withal, whether or not sociology can or should be a science depends on how science is defined. If science is narrowly defined as in the case of Popper, it is very difficult for sociology to meet the expectation and standard demanded. However, if it is much more broadly defined as Realist, then sociology can be a science. ...read more.

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