93. Sociology as a Science


What is science and what is not? This question has often been the subject of debate, perhaps because ‘science’ is a matter of degree.

Sociology does make use of scientific methods in the study of its subject-matter. The definition of science is a mass of knowledge concerning a particular subject acquired by systematic observation, experience and experiment. Sociology is a scientific discipline which obeys the demands of validity implied by the word ‘science’.

Sociology frames laws and attempts to predict. It Endeavour’s to discover laws that are generally applicable regardless of variations in culture. No other science can boast of making infallible predictions and many theories established by other sciences have to be modified with the change of time.

All physical sciences do not employ laboratory experimentation, for example-astronomy cannot experiment with its materials. Sociology also deals with society and cannot experiment with men directly in a laboratory. In spite of its inability to experiment with its subject in laboratory, sociology is also a science. In short sociology to some extend has the following characteristics of science –

  1. It is empirical; that is, it is based on observation and reasoning.
  2. It is theoretical; that is, it attempts to summarize complex observation in abstract, logically related proposition which purport to explain causal relationship in the subject matter.
  3. It is cumulative; that is, sociological theories build upon one another, new theories correcting, extending and refining the older once.
  4. It is non-ethical; that is, sociologists do not ask whether particular social actions are good or bad; they seek merely to explain them.

So at last we can say sociology is a science. But, progress is being steadily made.

Dr. Chaya Dubey M.A.,  Ph.D

Give your answer about 200 words.

Q .1 Explain the relationship between sociology and common


Q.2 Can sociology be value free science?


12 thoughts on “93. Sociology as a Science

  1. 2. Social behaviour, in general, is guided by a set of values. The study of social behaviour can never be value-free if value freedom is interpreted in the sense of absence of values. However, social research is in itself a type of social behaviour. Sociologists may need to observe value neutrality i.e., exclusion of ideological or non-scientific assumptions, while conducting social research. The sociologist should make his own values open and clear and avoid advocating particular values. Value neutrality enables the social scientists to fulfil the search for true knowledge. According to Alvin Ward Gouldner, value-free principle enhanced the autonomy of sociology where it could steadily pursue the basic problems. It contributed to the intellectual growth and emancipation of the enterprise and enhanced freedom from moral compulsiveness. However in practice it has been found that it is extremely difficult to fulfil the goal of value neutrality. According to Gunnar Myrdal, total value neutrality is impossible. Thus in order to carry out social research, view-points are needed which form the basis of hypothesis and which enables the social scientists to collect empirical data. These view-points involve valuations which are also required while formulating the hypothesis. Thus a sociologist has to be value frank and should make the values, which get incorporated in the formulation of hypothesis, clear and explicit at the very outset of the research.

  2. 1. Common sense can be defined as “the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way”. Common sense of an individual would be based on the amount of ‘limited’ exposure, knowledge and data one has. A sociologist, on the other hand has mandate not to limit itself in above criteria. He needs to take into account all the viewpoints and arrive at conclusion.
    For example, common sense would say people don’t generally follow traffic rules and get away by tipping the cop, a sociologist might argue that stringent laws do act as a deterrence.
    If sociology is common sense then common sense is not common.

  3. Hello Madam,
    I would like to revise my answer.

    1.Common sense can be defined as “the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way”. Common sense of an individual would be based on the amount of ‘limited’ exposure, knowledge and data one has. A sociologist, on the other hand has mandate not to limit itself in above criteria. He needs to take into account all the viewpoints and arrive at conclusion.

    The aim of a discipline is to develop a set of theories using which a wide range of behaviors can be explained. The empirical and verifiability are chief characters of scientific pursuit. Common sense is generally derived from the local legends are stories. The reasoning and explanation don’t have widespread implications since the source is limited. Masses generally do not analyze social behaviors. They take everything for granted and often provide explanation that suits them. This might be a cynical explanation of common sense, but the common sense that prevails in a socitey might is generally so.
    For example, the sense that commonly prevails in the khap panchayat is that women should be restrained for the overall good of the socitey, where as a systematic study of socitey have proved that emancipation of women is necessary.

    To put it in simple terms if sociology is common sense then common sense is not common.

  4. 2.Value theory investment how, why and to what degree people value things; whether the thing is a person, idea, object, or anything else. whether the thing is a person, idea, object, or anything else. The value system in present context is generally driven the sense of ‘religious morality ‘ that prevails in the socitey. Sociologists postulate several theories to explain social behavior. The debate of whether explanation should take into account the value system is old.

    Philosophers like Montessquie and Marx have adopted theories like laws and materialism govern social beviour. This school of sociology advocates that it is the circumstances,and not the value system that drive social behavior.
    On the other hand, thinkers like Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Weber emphasized that morality and value system play an integral role in our behavior. Weber went on to state that Protestant ethics abets capitalism.
    Sociologists themselves are part of society and are humans. Assigning them the task to do an impartial judgement in activities they are a part of is asking them to shed their human behavior. Accounts of personal life’s of few renowned sociologists would establish the fact that their theories are a reflection of the extraordinary circumstances they went through.
    Value free sociology can be termed as an utopian concept.

    1. Correct Pabitra, it depends upon individual intelligence ,because it is difficult to explain social phenomena.

  5. Sociology and Common-sense:
    Sociology as per weber is defined as “the science which attempts the interpretative
    understanding of social action in order thereby arrive at the causual explanation of
    its course and actions”

    The “social actions” is based on the experience and knowledge a person acquired which
    helps improve his way of life.
    This “experience and knowledge” which is required for a reasonale life can be defined
    as “common sense”.

    From the above defintions, we can certainly arrive at the conclusion that common sense
    and sociology are related.

    Some of the characteristics of “common sense” can be stated as follows:
    1. It is based on “immediate” and “limited” experience
    2. It may even be based on mere assmptions and opinions.
    3. It is a superficial knowledge which helps in day-to-day life
    4. It is not a global constant, varies from person to person.
    5. It is subjected to cultural/ethinc aspects of a being
    6. Common sense reflects social conditions and conventions

    Sociology on the other hand is
    1. More observatory and can not rely on day-to-day experiences alone.
    2. Sociology is a body of
    a. Concepts
    b. Methods and
    c. Data (reliable)
    on which theories have been developed
    3. Sociology does a systematic and comparitive study of the
    theories evolved and thus is slow and steady process.
    4. The views presented by these theories are reliable as they are based on
    scientific studies.
    5. Sociology points out the cultural/ethnic imapct on “common sense”
    6. Sociology studies the force behind the social conditions and conventions.

    Looking at the above stated characteristics, we may conclude that
    “sociology is not divorced from common sense, but sociology tests out
    common sense and verifies it providing a scientific explanation”

  6. 2> sociology has to be value free science else the mere studying this subject will be in peril. sociologist has to be neutral in studying the social behavior if he does not it will lead to prejudice and biasing. which undermines the study of sociology.

  7. Can Sociology be value-free science:
    The subject matter of sociology is human behavior in society,
    this human behavior is subjected to and is guided by values.
    Thus the study of social behavior can never be value-free
    as values of the society under investigation form a part of
    social facts and the researcher himself is part of the society.

    A socilogical study will generally involve
    1. theoritical formulations and setting up of facts
    2. collecting data
    3. interpreting the data to validate “theoritical aspects and facts”
    4. Publishing findings.

    Weber believed in the aim of “Value-Neutrality” in research, his view
    was that no science is fundamentally neutral as the interpretations
    are subjected to personal values. Its the link between researchers
    theoritical stand and th methods adopted indicate if the research is

    Applying weber view to the sociological study process,
    value plays an important role in the selection of “aspects of study”,
    and developing “theoritical formulations” with which to understand the “aspects”.

    However, values should be NOT infulence the crucial part of “data collection”.
    The “data collection” should be as “objective” as possible. It is here that,
    the sociologist should exclude “ideological and non-scientific” assumptions
    which forms a basis for deciding a method employed is “Value-free” or not.

    Values become important in the “interpretation” of the obtained data so as to
    verify the “theoritical formulations and facts” and a sociologist should
    make his own values open and refrain from advocating particular values while
    publishing the findings.

    Thus, values are an integral part of research process and to what extent the
    study is “value-free” is dependent on the methods employed in “data collection”

  8. 1) Every one of us is born and grows in a family, society or community. Each of these groups has its own behaviour, culture, customs etc. We acquire knowledge from each activities happening around these groups from childhood. These knowledge latter are use to solve other issues. This is what we call common sense. Common sense improves at each stage with experience. So we can say that at any given point we have limited knowledge and so is common sense. Hence if we try to understand social activities using common sense then that may be not fully correct. Or in other word we may be partially correct.
    Whereas a sociologist, it require to view each problem from different vintage point. Each vantage point provides its own solution. The knowledge of sociology helps in comparing each view from different view point and help in concluding possible issues and its remedies.

    2) According to the view of Max Weber that sociologists must not allow their personal biases to affect the conduct of their scientific research. That means the sociologist while carrying social research must confine called value relevance.
    Sociologist should be value neutral while conducting social research. He should not make any evaluative judgement about empirical evidence. His should make own values open and clear and refrained. Value neutrality enables the sociologist to fulfil the basic value of scientific enquiry that is search for true knowledge. Thus sociology being a science cherishes the goal of value neutrality.

  9. as i joined late im stuck up with few doubts….can u please tell me hw emergence of sociology is linked with modernization of europe

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