• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Should Sociology Be Scientific?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

SHOULD SOCIOLOGY BE SCIENTIFIC? Positivists claim that science uses established methods and procedures, and that these methods and procedures can be applied to the social sciences. They believe that social facts can be observed objectively, measured and quantified. Analysis of statistics can reveal correlations, causes and ultimately laws of human behaviour. From this point of view, sociological studies using such methods can be considered to be scientific. Positivists see the use of scientific methods as highly desirable, and they tend to be critical of those sociologists who study subjective and unobservable mental states. Popper (1959) also sees it as highly desirable that sociology should be scientific. He rejects many sociological theories as being unscientific because they are not sufficiently precise to generate hypotheses that can be falsified. He is particularly critical of Marxism for failing to make precise predictions: for example, for failing to specific exactly when and under what circumstances a proletarian revolution would take place in capitalist societies. Like positivists, then, Popper believes that it is possible for sociology to become scientific by following a particular set of methodological procedures. He parts company with positivists in denying that science can deliver the final truth, since the possibility of falsification always exists. ...read more.

Middle

According to the realist view of science, much of sociology is scientific, To realist sociologists such as Keat and Urry (1982), Marxist sociology is scientific because it develops modles of underlying structures and processes in society, which are evaluated and modified in the light of empirical evidence. Unlike positivists, realists do not automatically reject interpretive sociology as unscientific, because they believe that studying unobservable meanings and motives is perfectly compatible with a scientific subject. One of the reasons that sociologists have been so concerned with the question of whether sociology is a science is the widespread assumption that science is objective, or 'value-free'. Many of the founders of sociology believed that sociology could and should be value-free. Early positivists such as Comte and Durkheim argued that objectivity was attainable by adopting a 'scientific' methodology. Marx also believed that his sociology was object and 'scientific', although he saw society very differently. Weber did not think complete value-freedom was possible, but he did believe that, once a topic for research had been chosen, the researcher could be objective. He argues that sociologists should not make value judgements, that is, they should not state what aspects of society they found desirable or undesirable. ...read more.

Conclusion

Empirical investigations, which are more than the subjective interpretations of individuals, mean that sociology can be more than just value-laden opinions. Truth claims, even if accepted now, may be rejected at some point in the future. A consensus about what is and is not true may break down. However, because they are based upon reaching agreements about what is true, they have a more solid foundation than individual interpretations. Carspeken even argues that, up to a point, values can be evaluated as well. He uses the example of somebody arguing that poverty is not bad because 'there has always been poverty and always will be; it is natural' (Carspecken 1996). In this case the value claim that poverty is not bad can be critically examined by using examples of societies, which have no poverty, and by trying to show that some things which are natural are not necessarily good. If Craspecken's views are correct, then values are integral to sociology and indeed to all disciplines, but that does not prevent empirical testing of theories. Sociology can make claims about truth and hope to gain acceptance for them. From this viewpoint, sociologists should also accept and welcome a commitment to using the production of sociological knowledge to try to improve society. Sanjay Mistry 'Sociology as a Science' Jan 03 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Sociology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Sociology essays

  1. Peer reviewed

    Assess the values on sociological research of value free sociology, value laden and committed ...

    3 star(s)

    Becker argued that sociology had traditionally been on the side of the powerful, looking from the viewpoint of the professional, the doctor or policeman. He argued that sociology should be on the side of the underdog. Gouldner disagreed with Becker, and stated the according to his argument sociology had already been studying those with little power.

  2. A-Level Sociology Theory + Methods Revision.

    * It can't be assumed that something functional for 1 group is functional for everyone else. * It may be difficult to see how all institutions are related; e.g. marriage + political system. Strengths Of Functionalism * It is a perspective.

  1. evaluation of methods

    Another problem is that it is not useful for a large number of people. As before, it will take a long time to ask each question on a big scale. Finally, in an interview it is difficult to discuss personal questions.

  2. Max Weber: Basic Terms (The Fundamental Concepts of Sociology)

    Law: system of order where the above is enforced by a functionally specialized agency (e.g., the police). A system of order with external sanctions may also be guaranteed by disinterested subjective attitudes. Eg, it can be both morally wrong and illegal to murder.

  1. Philosophies of Social Science.

    In the hands of many, methodological individualism has meant operating on the basis of the abstract conception of the individual, apart from social context, described above. Other methodological individualists, including (as we shall see below) Max Weber, located the individual much more fully in a social setting.

  2. Scholarly detachment in scientific research.

    This is bias herself because if she was to do a study woman would be her bias although she makes it clear in the beginning of her article that the government controls groups and the members of the groups contribute to the "body of knowledge" (Smith 379).

  1. Organizational Perspectives on Stratification.

    In order to answer these questions, Beck, et al. perform empirical analyses on data from the 1975 and 1976 General Social Surveys. The sample consisted of 1,683 members of the experienced civilian labor force. The independent variables were: 1.) Human Capital Variables: parental education and occupational prestige, age, respondent's education (investment)

  2. Is sociology a science?

    Which is largely provided by ''value consensus''(shared norms and values). Sociologists don't just raise issues and talk about them in an abstract way. They research these issues in the real social world. They collect data that forms the evidence used to solve sociological problems.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work