Key Problems of Sociological Theory

Key Problems of Sociological Theory

Key Problems of Sociological Theory

Key Problems of Sociological Theory

Excerpt

In the last few years there have been signs that sociology is becoming an increasingly popular subject in Britain. On the one hand there has been a vastly increased enrolment in universities for courses in sociology as distinct from courses in social work. And on the other there has been an increasing tendency when public issues are being discussed to give weight to the opinions of men calling themselves sociologists. In such a situation it becomes very important that teachers and students of sociology should try to get a clearer idea of the sorts of question which can and cannot be answered in terms of their discipline.

The present book has been written because of the author's sense of the inadequacies of a sociological tradition dominated by empiricism and positivism. The tradition of empiricism leads to attempts to settle public issues by reference to crude ad hoc generalisations. So "right-wing" facts are refuted by "leftwing" facts and vice versa, and in the argument which ensues nothing becomes clear except the value-biasses which the authors seek desperately to conceal. The tradition of positivism on the other hand fails in refusing to interpret observed correlations of fact except in terms of the natural sciences. So the sociologist often appears to have derived little more insight through his precise methods than the untutored layman is able to do through trusting to intuition and common-sense.

The type of scientific approach to sociology which is advocated here is that which emphasises the role of theoretical models in the orientation of the sociologist to his research problems. The attempt to use such models need not, as is sometimes suggested, lead to abstract system building or armchair theorizing. The point is that if we are not explicit about their use, we are likely to use them implicitly in the form of undisclosed hunches in terms of which research data is selected and ordered.

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