Can and Should Sociology be Value Free. this essay is about the aim of sociology that is to be value free and whether it can and should achieve that aim

Topics: Sociology, Social sciences, Max Weber Pages: 7 (2139 words) Published: January 11, 2004
The term value neutrality was used by Weber to indicate the necessary objectivity researchers need when investigating problems in the natural sciences. Weber even though had introduced the term and accepted a scientific in the study of sociology, he did not believed that absolute objectivity is attainable.

Weber said that value neutrality should be the primary aim in sociology but it cannot be obtained since sociology is the study of human behaviors and society thus making it prone to personal views and value judgments. He recognized that values would influence the choice of topics for study. The reason for his claim was, sociologists had to choose from the vast knowledge in sociology to be studied. Inevitably, this will result value judgments to be made. Weber also believed that once a topic has been chosen, researchers should be objective in conducting experiments and proving their theories.

Objectivity means that the conclusions arrived at as the result of inquiry and investigation are independent of the race, colour, creed, occupation, nationality, religion, moral preference and political predisposition of the investigator. If hi research is truly objective, it is independent of any subjective elements, any personal desires, that he may have, Bierstedt (1963). Having said that, one can argue whether it is impossible for sociology to be value free because in order for it to become objective it has to confine itself to so many criteria and conditions. It seems as if it is impossible for sociology to be value free since it is the study of humanity and society which of course cannot be freed from making value judgment. How can it be value free if it cannot be independent from bias in race, color, creed, occupation, nationality, religion, moral preference and political standings? Like Weber, Myrdal believed that objectivity is ideal to strive for but is difficult in fact almost impossible to attain. He based his argument on the fact that all scientists are prone to bias. For example the experiment conducted by Michael Lynch (1983) in a psycho-biological laboratory to show that scientists may be less objective that they claim. The scientists ignored other variables or discoveries in the experiment and categorize them as artifact (something produced in an experiment but does not exist in the phenomenon being studied). Some of the discoveries were held to be errors.

This proves that even science itself is not value free, what are the changes for sociology to be fully objective? Observers have their own interpretation and interest, so they will take actions in accordance with their interest. They will alter evidence, add variables and ignore other possibilities to prove their theories. Values enter the study of sociology even before any experiments or hypothesis being made. Researchers will find areas that they find suitable and significantly what they think play a greater role and have deeper impacts on sociology. Weber himself chose to study bureaucracy and the advent of capitalism since he believed that these two areas are more important in the Western societies. Peter Townsend chose to study poverty because he believed that it is an important issue in the society

Like Weber, Derek Philips believed that sociology cannot be fully objective. Unlike Weber, he argues that 'An investigator's values influence not only the problems he selects for study but also his methods for studying them and the sources of data he uses'.(Philips).

Even prominent sociologists like Karl Marx and Durkheim who claimed to have used scientific methods and applying objectivity in their studies could not be fully objective. Marxism has been criticized for encouraging its devotees to revolt and take actions to change the society. Functionalists have been accused of supporting the status quo and their researches to a certain extent, support and justify the positions privileges and actions of the ruling class.

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