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Value in Social Theory: A Selection of Essays on Methodology

By Gunnar Myrdal; Paul Streeten | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN FACTS AND VALUATIONS 1

1. BIASES IN THE RESEARCH ON THE AMERICAN NEGRO PROBLEM

T HE biases in popular beliefs about social reality and the deeper conflicts of valuations rationalized by these popular theories can be made apparent through comparison with 'objective' truth as this is revealed by scientific research.2 But the scientist himself is not necessarily immune to biases. In the light of the history of scientific writings on the American Negro problem, the biased notions held in previous times and the opportunistic tendencies steering them stand out in high relief against the better controlled scientific views of to-day. Our steadily increasing stock of observations and inferences is not merely subjected to continuous cross-checking and critical discussion but is deliberately scrutinized to discover and correct hidden preconceptions and biases. Full objectivity, however, is an ideal toward which we are constantly striving, but which we can never reach. The social scientist, too, is part of the culture in which he lives, and he never succeeds in freeing himself entirely from dependence on the dominant preconceptions and biases of his environment.

Race problems, generally, and the Negro problem in America, particularly, are to an extraordinary degree affected by conflicting valuations of high emotional tension. Keeping in mind the actual power situation in the American nation and observing the prevalent opinions in the dominant white group, we are led, even by a superficial examination, to expect that even the scientific biases will run against the Negroes most of the

____________________
1
Appendix 2 in An American Dillemma.
2
Chapter V, Section I, page 71

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