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Sociological Theory: Positivistic, Interpretative, And Critical

Term Paper Title: Sociological Theory: Positivistic, Interpretative, And Critical
Word Count: 1847
Page Count: 7.39 (250 words per page double spaced)

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


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

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 of critical theory.Critical realism believes
that a real...

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