Q.2(A): Positivism is an epistemological position with certain ‘left-of-centre’ political implications. It emerged in combination with sociology, which would eventually develop into a full-fledged academic discipline concerned with the social problems generated by capitalist industrialisation, urbanisation, and other aspects of contemporary daily life. The combined development of positivism and sociology transpired in several stages. In the present chapter we will deal, first , with the principles of sociology and positivism as they emerged in the first half of the 19th century. Then we turn to the sociology of Durkheim and others as exemplary of a managerial, reformist approach to the ‘social question’ (Weber was not a positivist but stands in the hermeneutic/neo-Kantian tradition that we look at in Chapter 4). Finally, we turn to neo-positivism which more than the others worked to imprint the sociological, empirical method with the subjectivist approach which warrants its place at this point in our study (which as noted, may be legitimately contested for the earlier versions). Giddens, (born 8 January 1938) is a British sociologist who is known for his theory of structuration and hisholistic view of modern societies. He is considered to be one of the most prominent modern sociologists, the author of at least 34 books, published in at least 29 languages, issuing on average more than one book every year. In 2007, Giddens was listed as the fifth most-referenced author of books in the humanities. Three notable stages can be identified in his academic life. The first one involved outlining a new vision of what sociology is, presenting a theoretical and methodological understanding of that field, based on a critical reinterpretation of the classics. His major publications of that era include Capitalism and Modern Social Theory (1971) and New Rules of Sociological Method (1976). In the second stage Giddens developed the theory of structuration, an analysis of agency and structure, in which primacy is granted to neither. His works of that period, such as Central Problems in Social Theory (1979) and The Constitution of Society (1984), brought him international fame on the sociological arena. Some of the Giddens’s critique on positivism are as follows: 1. The nature of sociology: Before 1976, most of Giddens' writings offered critical commentary on a wide range of writers, schools and traditions. Giddens took a stance against the then-dominant structural functionalism (represented by Talcott Parsons, exponent of Max Weber), as well as criticizing evolutionismand historical materialism. In Capitalism and Modern Social Theory (1971), he examined the work of Weber, Durkheim and Marx, arguing that despite their different approaches each was concerned with the link between capitalism and social life. Giddens also stressed the importance of power, which is means to ends, and hence is directly involved in the actions of every person. Power, the transformative capacity of people to change the social and material world, is closely shaped by knowledge and space-time. Giddens specifically wrote that:
* Sociology is not about a 'pre-given' universe of objects, the universe is being constituted — or produced by — the active doings of subjects. * The production and reproduction of society thus has to be treated as a skilled performance on the part of its members. * The realm of human agency is bounded. Individuals produce society, but they do so as historically located actors, and not under conditions of their own choosing. * Structures must be conceptualized not only as constraints upon human agency, but also as enablers. * Processes of structuration involve an interplay of meanings, norms and power. * The sociological observer cannot make social life available as 'phenomenon' for observation independently of drawing upon his knowledge of it as a resource whereby he constitutes it as a 'topic for...
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