THEORY: Is sociology a science. (Durkheim's Study: Le suicide…
THEORY: Is sociology a science.
Positivists sociology- see sociology as a science.
Durkheim's Study: Le suicide
Positivists focus on empirical data such as statistics, claim this is most effective way of gathering information about the social world.
Durkheim's approach based on following principles; statistics aren't based on researchers personal view point or beliefs on right or wrong. If a researcher uses this form of methodology in their research then can remain objective.
Objective- when research doesn't include the personal views of the researcher, so research is value free.
By collecting statistics about social world, look for patterns & correlations- may represent relationship between 2 factors and establish cause and effect relationship. e.g. relationship between religion and suicide.
Durkheim argued sociologists must analyse effects of different factors to check genuine relationship between the two.
Durkheim's approach- Explaining how sociology is a science, 2 key features different to other explanations.
It's inductive in trying to explain how society works, start by looking at the evidence and attempt to link this evidence to theory.
Based on verification, idea that theories are confirmed or verified through the collection of data.
Popper disagrees with Durkheim's positivist approach to explaining sociology as a science.
Popper DOES agree that sociology can be scientific, he rejects the inductive approach, argues whatever you are researching, must be some sort of initial theory in mind, regardless of how undeveloped the theory is. Popper supports deductive approach. This is starting with a theory and finding/using evidence in support of this theory.
Popper argues that by using a deductive approach, possible to see if you can falsify the theory you're using.
Known as falsification, idea of a hypothesis being proven wrong.
Popper arguing that you can't ever prove something to be 100% correct, much easier to prove something wrong. He says social science aren't precise enough to be proven wrong.
E.g. Marxist theory said be a proletariat revolution of the capitalist system, never specified when this would be so impossible to say that this can be falsified
Interpretivists Sociology- don't see sociology as a science.
Social action theory
Meanings and motives of social actors. Interested in HOW and WHY different social relational factors happen. They use qualitative data to find relationships and research is considered to be value laden.
Value laden- When researcher's own view and opinions are incorporated into their research.
Claim the world can only be known and understood through categories- no way of observing and knowing something directly to record facts about it.
Claim social factors and issues are down to interpretation.
So how can sociology be a science if there are no facts to work with. Social issues aren't based on fact so impossible to prove or falsify a theory.
Douglas' study: Suicide
Rejected Durkheim's use of quantitative data from official statistics.
Claimed that this isn't social facts but as a social construct, shaped by coroner who labels certain deaths as suicide- based on perception. He said best way to get required data is to use qualitative data through the use of case studies to gain understanding of WHY it's happened and focus on meanings. Gives a real rate of suicide rather than official stats.
Majority of social life is a construct so difficult to research topics, e.g. crime, health as relies on people reporting crimes or health issues.
Not always the case, doesn't give true representation of the issue, meaning statistics are a social construct.
Postmodernism and Science
Postmodernists argue sociology isn't a science, science is a meta-narrative (grand theory).
Despite sciences claim to have access to the truth, in reality, science is one 'big story' about world and isn't more valid than any other.
As a result of this, no reason to adopt science as a model for sociology, better for it to remain independent.
Thomas Kuhn: Science as a Paradigm
Disagreed with positivists and disputed Popper's claim about falsification.
Kuhn argued, scientists take assumptions for granted and perceptions and assumptions about world are referred to as 'paradigms', normal science made up of this and is used to solve puzzles about the world.
Social world was likened to jigsaw puzzles and important to find out how these pieces fit together.
Idea of paradigm of particular topics can change when new evidence comes along, known as 'paradigm shift' as the previous ideas have been proven to be wrong. Commonly known as a scientific revolution.