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The Positivist and Interpositivist Approaches To Sociology - Essay Example

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The Positivist and Interpositivist Approaches To Sociology

Positivism was popularised by sociologist of the 19th and 20th century, such as Compt and Durkheim. These sociologists experienced the increasing ability of the natural sciences to understand, explain and predict events and occurrences of the natural world. They therefore believed that if there were basic laws or relationships between phenomena in the natural world, similar laws and relationship should be present in the social world.
The essence of the positivist approach is readily conveyed in Durkheim's idea that "The first and most fundamental rule is to consider social facts as things." This means that, essentially, people's actions and behaviours are basically controlled or influenced by external stimuli/factors, their ideas and feelings not relevant. Therefore, such behaviour can be objectively observed and measured in the same way that natural science involves the construction of theory and the measuring of findings.
Positivist sociologists claim that it possible, and desirable to study humans in approximately the same way that natural science investigates the physical world. Positivism, in its analysis, seeks to hypothesize and then evaluate causal inferences about social phenomena that will be generalisable beyond the specic data analysed. However, their research approach is not limited to particular methods, thus both qualitative and quantitative techniques can further positivist goals when they share a unied logic of causal inference .A fundamental premise of the positivist research is the existence of objective reality and facts, which can be known or approximated through research methods. It is believed that analyses must be both replicable and testable across cases, and the validity of the analysis will be evaluated accordingly. Generally, hypotheses are generated and compared to other hypotheses, with an eye toward validity and explanatory power.
In sociology, Quantitative research methods include methodologies concerned with the collection of data, figures and numbers.
Qualitative method is concerned with observations and gathering information about meanings, interpretations, feelings and emotions.
Validity refers to the success of methods of research in accurately measuring of describing what they were intended to analyse
Reliability refers to the duplicability i.e. the extent to which a research can be repeated in the same conditions and obtaining the same results.
Interpretivist Approach
This school of thought condemns the attempt of the positivist at employing scientific approaches in the study of human behaviours. They believe that sociology should not and cannot be scientific. This is clearly indicated in the work of Clifford Geertz. He defined culture as the "webs of signicance" that man himself has spun, and argued that "the analysis of culture is therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning". He claimed that what we think of as facts, our data, cannot be truly objective because they are really "our own constructions of other people's constructions of what they and their compatriots are up to".
Obviously, the ...Show more


The goal of the study of sociology is to understand human behaviours and the relationship between biological, social and cultural influences on human personalities. However, looking at the ways and methods of studying human behaviours employed in sociology, shows variations and diversity in the understanding of the nature of people, their relationship to society and how best to investigate human behaviour.
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The Positivist and Interpositivist Approaches To Sociology essay example
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