Sociological Theory: Positivistic, Interpretative, and Critical
Comment on the three types of sociological theories, explain and argue, based on your library or Internet research, which type of theory is the most appropriate theory for sociology to adopt.
The three general types of sociological theory are positivistic, interpretive and critical theory.In determining which theory is the most appropriate for sociology to adopt,a basic understanding of each theory's strengths and weaknesses is necessary.In defining each of these theories, it is important to determine the ontological basis orthe theory's basis for determining what is knowable; the epistemological basis or the theory's relationship between the knower and the knowable; and, finally, the methodological basis or the theory's method for gathering data and obtaining knowledge.
The positivistic theory is based on an ontology ofbeing a realist.The realistic slant of positivism is also known as determinism.The positivist knows that a reality is "out there" to be defined and categorized.The hard sciences from the time of Newton and Decartes have traditionally relied on the positivistic approach.The positivist hopes to be able to approximate "reality" in a detailed generalization or theory on how reality operates.The theories of a positivist generallytake the form of cause and effect laws describing the outside reality.Robert Merton defined these theorems as "clear verifiable statements of the relationships between specified variables."
Positivism relies onan objective epistemology.The observer remains distant and does not interact with the observation or experiment.Values and any other factors that might lead to bias are to be carefully removed so that the cold, monological gaze of science can be used to analyze the data.The positivist is an objectivist.
The methodology of positivism is experimental and manipulative. The approach is the same as propounded in most junior high science classes:begin with a hypothesis on how "reality" works, then gather data and test the data against the hypothesis.The question propounded initially is tested against empirical data gathered in the experiment under carefully controlled conditions.
The interpretivist ontology is relativism.The belief, unlike the positivist, is that knowledge is relative to the observor.Reality is not something that exists outside the observor, but rather is determined by the experiences, social background and other factors of the observor.Because of this view sociological law is not a constant, but a relationship between changing variables.
The epistemology of interpretivism is the subjective.The inquirer in interpretisim becomes part of an interaction or communication with the subject of the inquiry.The findings are the result of the interaction between the inquirer and the subject. Reality becomes a social construction.
The methodology ofinterpretivism can best be described as hermenutic or dialectic.Hermenutics is the study of how to make interpretive inquiry.Dialectic is reflective of the dialogue imagined in the subjective approach and the need to test interpretive theory against human experience. Max Weber described the methodology as "a science which aims at the interpretative understanding of social conduct and thus at the explanation of its causes, its course, and its effects."
Through hermenutics, the raw data consists of description.The description is made through the naturally symbolic use of language.The meaning of the language is derived in part by the society from which it arises.Interpretive theory is tested by referring back to human practice within the society.If the interaction produces the anticipated result then the theory is corroborated and vice versa.
Criticalrealism is the ontology...
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