UPSC SOCIOLOGY – Paper 1 – Chapter 2 – Sociology as Science – Non- positivist methodologies.
- Non positivism is marked by three schools of thought. They are phenomenology, ethnomethodology and symbolic interactionism. All these schools emphasize human interactions with phenomenon in their daily lives and suggest qualitative rather than quantitative approaches to social inquiry.
- Positivits saw society as given and men as mere part of it and government by its rules. Non positivists on the other hand considered man as an independent thinking being who can also influence society.
- According to them, social world is based upon the uniqueness of human society in terms of meaning, symbols and motives.
- Max Weber was one of the pioneers of the non-positivist approach.
- Other doyens were G H Mead, Herbert Blumer, Alfred Schutz, Harold Garfinkel, etc.
ELEMENTS IN NON-POSITIVISM
- Non-positivists study the internal processes represented through emotions, motives, aspirations and the individual’s interpretation of social reality.
- Non-positivists emphasize upon using qualitative methods and not the scientific methods similar to the ones used in natural sciences.
- Non-positivists suggested the understanding of social reality and not the prediction of events.
- They refrained from formulation of generalized universal theories.
- The highlighted the impossibility of total objectivity in research.
- Non-positivists primarily adopt an interactional approach.
- They have a micro perspective.
- They have an individual centric approach.
- Prefer qualitative tools of research like descriptive or ethnographical methods.
- They focused on describing phenomenon.
- The task of sociology is to interpret the meanings attached by individuals to their action.
- The basis of this approach is that individual has a voluntary will and his thoughts cannot be understood simply in terms of external influence.
- Max Weber also proposed scientific methods for Interpretive sociology like ideal type and comparative methods.
- Emerged as an alternative to positivism.
- It means study of phenomenon in society.
- It argued that subject matter of natural sciences and social sciences are fundamentally different – man has consciousness, material things don’t and hence, methods of natural sciences cannot be applied on Social sciences.
- Phenomenology studies the everyday phenomena that happen in our social lives.
- Phenomenology reject a causal explanation, generalization of theory and use of any specific methods.
- Max Weber is a big influence on the development of this stream.
- Herbert Blumer coined the term in 1937.
- John Dewey, Cooley and William Thomas were other influences.
- It rejected both social and biological determinism and argued that man himself creates a social reality by meanings created through interaction.
- It places a strong emphasis on symbols and language as core element of all human interactions.
- According to Mead, interactions are possible only through some symbols called significant symbols like language and gestures.
- The crucial assumption that human beings posess the ability to think, differentiate symbolic interactionism from its behaviourist roots.
- Symbolic interactionist’s primary concern is with the impact of meanings and symbols on human action and interaction.
- Ethnomethodology literally means the lay methods that people use on a daily basis to accomplish their everyday lives.
- People are viewed as rational but they use practical reasoning and not formal logic in accomplishing their everyday lives.
- It is the study of the body of common sense knowledge and the range of procedures and considerations by means of which the ordinary members of the society make sense of, find their way about in, and act on circumstances in which they find themselves.
- Ethnomethodology was proposed by Harold Garfinkel in 1940s.
- Aaron Cicourel also influenced this school a great deal.