The Values on Sociological Research of Value Free Sociology, Value Laden and Committed Sociology

The Values on Sociological Research of Value Free Sociology, Value Laden and Committed Sociology
Sociologists vary in their opinions on the effect of values on research. Value free sociology is an opinion in sociology, started by Emile Durkheim, that states that sociology should be seeking to use methodology similar to that used in the physical sciences. One of the key elements in their methodology to make it similar to the physical sciences is objectivity. These positivists state that their values have no effect on their research and that this should apply throughout sociology. They argue that if a study is well planned it is possible for the researchers personal beliefs to have no effect on the findings. They argue that the nature of sociological research is no different to that of any of the physical sciences, they are studying and measuring a set of totally independent phenomena and constructing and testing hypothesis as to the cause of this phenomenon.
Positivists also refer to social facts. These are the statistics obtained from surveys and official publications. According to O?Connell Davidson and Layder the personal views of the researcher are never relevant in sociological research, and they point to the accuracy of opinion polls on a range of subjects to display the accuracy of their surveys. A second group of sociologists believe that weather objectivity is desirable or not, it can never be achieved within sociology. They are known as value laden sociologists. They also claim that sociologists who argue that the subject is value free are doing it a dis-service. They point to a number of issues to support their views. Gouldner has pointed out that value free sociology points to Max Weber as a sociologist who claimed that personal views never enter sociological research. However Gouldner suggests that his words must be placed into a historical context as he was living under an oppressive government that frowned on intellectual freedom. They also point out that it is impossible for sociology to be considered value free when we look at the matter of funding. Sociologists working for various government departments will not find their work published if the findings do not reflect well on the department they are working for. This means they benefit from some outcomes of their research and loose out if it is a different outcome, so they have a vested financial interest in the outcome of their study. Philo and Miller have also argued that scientists allow their work to be manipulated and misinterpreted by public relations companies that are working on behalf of the funders. Value laden sociologists argue that sociologists have person career ambitions and goals and these will affect their work whether they realise it or not. Postmodernist?s sociologists such as Lyotard argue that the process of sociological and scientific thinking is based upon a series of values about the nature of society. They disagree with the idea that rational thinking based upon testable empirical evidence is the best way to understand the world, they argue that there are many approaches and that scientific thinking is just one. There is a final approach to this argument, the one of the committed sociologist, they argue that research should not be value free, but should have specific value witch guide its approach to study. The two main supporters of this approach are Marxists and feminist sociologists. Two sociologists started a debate that is values were to affect research whose side should they be on when conducting their studies. 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. After all what real powers do policeman have? He claimed sociology should attempt to study the real powerful people, those who create the rules of society. Marxists argue that the purpose of sociology is to expose the ways in which to ruling class exploit the working masses. They hope to breakdown the ways in which capitalism operates only operates to benefit a few. Marxist criminology writers Walton, Taylor and young argued that radical criminological strategy is too expose the law as the biggest instrument of the ruling class. Feminist writers are also big supporters of the committed sociology stance in this argument. Writers such as spender would agree with the Marxists on the principal of exposing the workings of an oppressive society, but they suggest they key is to explore how males dominate and oppress in society. The aim is to expose the truth about men, thus freeing women from the oppression of patriarchy. Feminist writers obviously place enormous importance on values influencing work, as their values mean they must fight against the oppression of patriarchy and they try to expose its effect and encourage enlightenment through their research.

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