Research On The Paradigms Positivism And Interpretivism Sociology Essay Example
Research On The Paradigms Positivism And Interpretivism Sociology Essay Example

Research On The Paradigms Positivism And Interpretivism Sociology Essay Example

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  • Pages: 8 (1934 words)
  • Published: August 31, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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According to Colin Hay's "Political Analysis" (2002), the goal is to make social research more flexible and address the underlying assumptions of scientific methodology, acknowledging that complete objectivity is unachievable. Implicit meta-theoretical positions and beliefs significantly influence the approach to theory and practice (Marsh and Furlong, 2002). This article considers whether a compromise between rationalist and interpretative social science, as proposed by Hay, is a valid approach. While many critiques have focused solely on his epistemology, this article takes a broader view of the principles of social science. The social science literature generally emphasizes "positivism", emphasizing public experience, testing, and monitoring. An example is Emile Durkheim's (1982) work to expand scientific rationalism to human behavior, believing that it can be reduced to cause-and-effect relationships.The contrast between rationalism and interpretivism is apparent, with


the latter valuing subjective significance, empathy, and understanding. However, the strong version of interpretivism suggests that societal distinction results in different "ways of cognizing," which cannot be reconciled by common criteria. The article seeks to demonstrate that Hay's via media approach successfully navigates between these two approaches. To do so, the article evaluates Hay's claims on the subject-matter of the social sciences, the limits of positivism and interpretivism, and his via media approach. According to Hay and Bhaskar (2002), societal constructions are distinct from regular constructions because they do not exist independently, are not part of their performance, and may only be relatively stable. The societal universe is occupied by effective, conscious, and automatic subjects, while the natural sciences study dead and un-reflexive units.The concept of a predictive science of the social world is called into question, as it relies on the probabilistic

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correlation between explanation and prediction. The capacity for theories to undergo significant testing is hindered if societal systems are inherently open, and as a result, predictions cannot be reasonably confirmed or denied. This notion has been criticized for exaggerating the distinction between natural and social structures based on human organization, as it assumes that societal systems are entirely independent of individual actions. Some suggest that by replacing 'society' and 'human beings' with the relevant forms of life in each case, similar principles could be applied to the natural sciences. However, there is a prevailing belief that societal systems are inherently open to the automatic selection of social action. Steven Bernstein and his colleagues argue that human intervention in society is remarkable because individuals attempt to manipulate the context in which they operate once they believe they understand it, thus making the "laws" of social science responsive to the environment they refer to. Giddens claims that this responsiveness makes social scientific laws "open."Moreover, even if social scientists strive to recreate experimental conditions, their research is limited because the behavior of a particular subject may be affected by learning about its hypotheses and methods, according to Rosenberg (1988). Differentiation (3) asserts that social processes tend to be culturally, spatially, and historically specific, rather than governed by universal natural laws. Hay (2002) points out this contrast through comparing the study of the global political economy with natural physics. The former is exceptionally challenging because of rapid changes compared with the generalized laws of natural physics that are presumed to be applicable in all situations throughout time. Nonetheless, in one academic understanding, societal structures can help achieve space-time invariance

by operating under certain conditions. For example, economic systems with specific features will follow certain trends as noted by Collier (1994). This allows the formulation of "universal" social laws that depend on certain circumstances. Nevertheless, from a more credible standpoint, when viewed from a historical perspective, social structures appear to be relatively stable.The job with covering-law accounts of societal phenomena is that they are difficult to accomplish due to the need for subdivision details on the 'initial conditions'. This often leads to incomplete explanations. Therefore, it is important to recognize the key differences in method between natural and societal sciences. According to Hay (2002), social scientists struggle to make impartial and empirical claims due to their embedded position within their subject matter. Escaping this complex environment for scientific scrutiny is difficult which is why a balance between positivism, interpretivism, and the via media is necessary.There are ethical dilemmas associated with the privileged position of societal scientists in terms of their ability to influence society. These scientists may seek to redefine and modify what is deemed socially acceptable, but there are three different approaches to addressing the ethical concerns regarding objectivity: positivism, interpretivism, and a compromise between the two. While not all theoretical terms and premises in positivism need to refer to observables, there is a commitment to the notion that substantial hypotheses must be able to be disproven through empirical evidence. Hay believes that positivism is ill-equipped to handle the social responsibility essential to societal science due to its emphasis on epistemological security and conceptual clarity. Hay's evaluation describes the strengths of positivism, which includes the precise specification of what can be considered knowledge, even

if it means excluding certain types of information.Interpretivism can be considered a type of social research that is highly skeptical about claims to objectivity and places emphasis on accessing information. This approach is a suitable response to the challenge presented by post-modernist critics to social science, as it acknowledges the normative content of its premises and language. However, Hay argues that interpretivism does not make a substantial contribution to social analysis. Its ontological perspective – that the world can be viewed from various viewpoints – combined with its normative commitment to treating all perspectives equally, means that interpretivism doubts all epistemic foundations. This type of relativism is as problematic as positivism for the ethical obligations of social scientists, as interpretivism does not address the purpose of normative inquiry. It rejects any assertion that there are fundamental metaphysical truths beyond appearances, while positivism confuses reality with knowledge.Hence, we seek an alternative to the blind ethical considerations of positivism and the pessimism and fatalism of interpretivism (Hay, 2002). The compromise involves acknowledging the ethical obligations that come with accepting that epistemology cannot determine social learning claims, while still allowing for their creation. To achieve this, social scientists must recognize the inherently normative nature of their responsibilities and specify their normative assumptions as clearly as possible. Empirical research cannot be completely rejected, as it forms the foundation of descriptive analysis, but once we move beyond this point, we enter into the realm of interpretation where competing narratives with different meta-theoretical assumptions conflict. Therefore, to make our normative assumptions apparent, we need a compromise approach that incorporates various certified empirical research that acknowledges interpretivist criticism. The question remains as

to whether this compromise constitutes a reasonable approach (Hay, 2002).The article by Alexander Rosenberg (1988) suggests that attempting to merge the contrasting narratives of social science theories, such as positivism and interpretivism, often leads to incoherence. According to Hollis and Smith (1990), these theories tend to be weak as they present two opposing stories. However, Martin Smith argues that Hay's research offers a viable compromise between explanation and understanding. He likens this to Odysseus navigating his way between Scylla and Charybdis. Smith highlights two key points: firstly, Hay rejects the use of predictive models due to the inherent uncertainty of social life; and secondly, although he challenges postmodernism's negativity, he recognizes the value in questioning assumptions. While some may argue that Hay's approach leans too heavily towards understanding rather than finding a successful middle ground, Smith's interpretation of his work offers valuable insight for social science research.Hay (2002) suggests that despite social scientists often having differing opinions on the significance of events or procedures, empirical evidence can bring about a greater understanding of their descriptions. This aligns with post-positivist perspectives that see analysis and usage as essential, but may not fully acknowledge the subjectivity of perception (Marsh and Furlong, 2002). The emphasis continues to be on explanation rather than comprehension, and experience rather than substance. However, an appeal to moral experience can be uncertain, as experience can refer to both what is presented and actual experience, an aspect acknowledged by Hay's interpretivist approach (Hollis, 2002). Therefore, Hay is open to critique from both sides for being too similar to the other. Interestingly, while co-authoring a book, Hollis and Smith (1990) have different approaches to social

scientific enquiry; Hollis opts for understanding while Smith chooses explanation. Smith believes that actor's understanding is conditioned by external factors while Hollis sees it as an essential part of the world they seek to comprehend.They are unable to resolve their uncertainty and therefore seek out various acceptable options. Ultimately, they acknowledge that the category which bridges the gap between account and understanding should be viewed as a transportable entity that can be relocated to the most logical position on the table (Hollis and Smith, 1990). Similarly, a range of voices is recognized by David Marsh and Paul Furlong (2002) who appreciate the disputed nature of epistemic positions. Promoting plurality, it appears that the fundamental premises underpinning the choice between account and comprehension should be made explicit, as argued by Hay, to prevent readers from surrendering their own judgments. Therefore, the middle ground is a powerful compromise. In this vein, Hay's significant work may provide indications as to whether this compromise is reasonable. Demystifying Globalization's analysis exemplifies how combining expertise with attentive reading can enhance our understanding of social phenomena (Hay and Marsh, 2000). The research identifies proper practices, such as the extent of financial markets and an increase in trading levels, which represent recognizable patterns of interaction.However, it is recognized that the impact of these procedures is influenced by their pure long-term development. This means that the beliefs commonly held about these procedures actually shape the fanciful forms of interaction with greater causal effectiveness. The British Government has argued that neoliberal policies are necessary due to globalization, despite limited empirical evidence that a globalized political economy must require monetary policy. Empirical observation can reveal causal

mechanisms, but their societal construction must be acknowledged to fully account for them. The compromise strategy effectively demonstrates how primary ideas about globalization have causal effectiveness, ultimately making a real difference in social outcomes through the definition of economic policy. However, it admits that real processes of globalization restrict the resonance of different discourses. The compromise approach could also benefit other areas of social learning, such as the study of global poverty in international political economy literature. (Marsh and Furlong, 2002)Branwen Gruffydd Jones (2003) shows that while traditional approaches to global poverty accurately describe superficial visual aspects, they overlook the true underlying relationships that cause these visual aspects such as social relations that govern production activities. The poor lack access to income-earning opportunities, hindering their ability to meet basic needs. A moderate approach to studying poverty recognizes the importance of visible features as true forms of interaction, but also acknowledges that ideas about these features have causal effects on social relations. Therefore, Hay's compromise method is a strong and consistent social science approach because it recognizes the difference between the studied subject and the public sciences.Furthermore, as this topic carries ethical obligations for social scientists, it is possible to combine elements of both rationalist and interpretivist approaches to find a middle ground that clarifies normative and meta-theoretical assumptions. Additionally, we have evidence to suggest that Hay's framework remains competitive and comprehensive. Instead of assuming that these approaches are fundamentally incompatible, we should recognize the tradeoffs involved in selecting the best approach for the social scientist and gaining acceptance from the audience. By using a compromise that incorporates rationalist details and interpretivist understanding, we can approach

this topic seriously and comprehensively.

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