Ideology and the Social Sciences

By Graham C. Kinloch; Raj P. Mohan | Go to book overview

Max Weber's differentiation between Nominaltypus and Realtypus, the distance between the original theoretical model and the empirical results has to be objectified. This distance serves as an empirical control of the theoretical hypotheses and at the same time is the point of departure for the final theory on the object of investigation. On the basis of the provisional theoretical construction and the empirical results, this theory reveals those relations, concealed from everyday knowledge, that assign the object its specific position in the social world. At the same time, this paves the way for the scientific explanation of the commonsense "ideological" perception of the object of investigation.


CONCLUSION

The discussion of Durkheim, Marx, Weber, and Comte has shown that these authors, although their theoretical approaches are of course different, share a similar point of view with respect to the definition of a theory of sociological thought. Since the supposed familiarity with the social world represents the highest obstacle to sociological knowledge, it is necessary to break free from spontaneous sociology. To serve this aim, Durkheim's reference to the beginnings of natural science is as helpful as the Marxian method of Critique of Political Economy. Weber's advice to explain the social by the social, and possibly only by the social, is still as important as Comte's warning to dissolve the connection between theory and method.

When confronting these epistemological principles with the concrete research process, certain restrictions come to the foreground. The example of the application stage has shown that a research program is not only the expression of concentrated scientific reflection but also of the ruling academic system. That is why a research completely free of ideology will remain an unobtainable ideal. Given this general restriction, the consideration of epistemological principles in a research project is easier when the sociologist approaches a topic without further public interest. Conversely, when approaching a topic omnipresent in public discourse, the sociologist is confronted with greater interference by self-styled "experts." In this situation the research report acquires great importance. It is here where the sociologist should objectify both the specific research results and his or her own position in the academic field and its influence on these results.


NOTES

This chapter is based on my article in the International Journal of Contemporary Sociology 35:2 ( 1998). With her critical comments on contents and style, Eileen Laurie has greatly contributed to the chapter.

1.
Hence, Marx's theory of ideology by no means assumes that the consciousness of the dominated is somehow "manipulated" by the dominators. On the contrary,

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