There are many questions and points being raised on the issue of whether it is possible to be completly value free in sociology. Some people say that sociology should become a “scientific” subject at the heart of society. Is this right though?
Positivists see sociology as a science, that much is true, and they claim that society should be value free and that researchers should remain objective and stick to the facts and only the facts. Positivists say that there should be no bias at all in the work of a researcher and the researcher’s beliefs and judgements should not be part of the work, that the sociologist should treat their research as a scientist would an experiment.
However, there are criticisms of the positivist viewpoint on this. The sociologist is a part of the society where values are a normal and everyday thing and are a main part of society. Therefore how can a sociologist or researcher keep values out of their work? Do scientists who are part of the natural sciences really keep their values and attitudes out of their work? Also, why should only those with the power decide what the research subject is going to be.
Alternatively, Weber has a viewpoint along the same lines as positivists. He says that sociology should be value free and that sociologists should remain objective and unbiased during the collection of research. However, he does aknowledge that “before” and “after” the research can be and is value laden. He says that values are brought into the research in the choosing of the subject.
The main criticism of Weber is how far can values be brought into sociology and how can the sociologist distinguish between value free and value laden research?
Becker (Interactionist) claims something totally different. He claims that sociology is full of meanings and motives brought in by society. He says that the bias of value laden sociology should be accepted by the sociologist as part of society and that the “hearts and minds” of the social action theory is an important part of sociology. He also says that the sociologist should simply tell readers which part of their work is biased and which is value free. Becker says that it would be impossible to have sociology without values.
However, as with Weber, there are criticisms with Becker’s work. How far is it possible to bring values and attitudes into sociological research> Goulder criticises him and says that Becker “does nothing to help the underdogs who he studies.”
Goulder argues that sociology is part of and ideological neutrality. He says that sociology should give everyone a chance to fight back against society. He also claims that it is impossible to keep morals out of sociological research as they can come in at so many different points, such as through the research subject and through the research itself.
Goulder’s work is criticised for the question of how can sociologists remain “neutral” and objective in their work?
Postmodernists argue that there is “no truth in society”. They ask how society can exist is the criteria for what is “true”; and what is “false” can’t be distinguised between.
Functionalists say that sociology should be objective and neutral and that the only kind of research that should be used is quantitive as it is the only kind that can be objective and value free. They say that sociologists should keep their value and opinions out of their research.
Once again, there are criticisms with the functionalist viewpoint. How is it possible to keep values out of research when they are everywhere? Values are a main part of society and it can’t be possible to take them out of research just to remain objective and value free.
The question whether sociology should be value free is a value judgement in itself. Some have tried to be value free and objective but it just isn’t possible to keep values out as they are such an important part of society. Values can only be kept out to some degree with difficulty but it is impossible to keep them out completely.