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


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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.

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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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