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Theory and Method in the Social Sciences

Theory and Method in the Social Sciences

Copyright Date: 1954
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 364
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  • Book Info
    Theory and Method in the Social Sciences
    Book Description:

    A series of essays dealing with some previously neglected areas of theory and research in the social sciences make up this volume. The problems considered fall into the general categories of social theory, values in social research, the contributions of sociological theory to the other social sciences, methodological issues in sociology, and some specific techniques of sociological research. The chapter entitled “A Theory of Social Organization and Disorganization,” published here for the first time, won for Dr. Rose the 1952 prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for essays in social science. Although addressed primarily to sociologists, the book offers material of interest and value to other social scientists, particularly economists, psychologists, political scientists, and students of law.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3678-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Preface
    (pp. v-viii)
    Arnold M. Rose
  3. Acknowledgments of Previous Publications
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)

    • 1 A Theory of Social Organization and Disorganization
      (pp. 3-24)

      ATHEORYmay be defined as an integrated body of definitions, assumptions, and general propositions covering a given subject matter from which a comprehensive and consistent set of specific and testable hypotheses can be deduced logically. The hypotheses must take the form “Ifa, thenb, holding constantc,d,e. . .” or some equivalent of this form, and thus permit of causal explanation and prediction.

      Agoodtheory is one which (1) has its definitions, assumptions, and general propositions consistent, insofar as possible, with previous research findings and with careful, although perhaps not systematic, observations; (2) has...

    • 2 The Problem of a Mass Society
      (pp. 25-49)

      MANY of those who probe into current social problems discover at the core a condition in which individuals find themselves without genuine contacts with one another. The individual finds it difficult or impossible to communicate satisfactorily with his fellows and consequently cannot orient his own values or put himself into harmony with society. As early as 1897 the great French sociologist Durkheim investigated suicide and found its chief modern cause in what he calledanomie.¹ This was a sense of isolation, of estrangement from the fellowship and values of the social group, of anonymity. Later Faris and Dunham provided evidence...

    • 3 A Theory of the Function of Voluntary Associations in Contemporary Social Structure
      (pp. 50-71)

      AMERICANS take their voluntary associations for granted, as an understood manifestation of democratic social life. There has never been a full-scale published study of voluntary associations in the United States, and what partial studies there are do not take up their role in relationship to political democracy.¹ Among intellectuals, there is even a bit of snobbishness in the attitude toward voluntary associations: They are assumed to be either groups of ladies (à laHelen Hokinson) who have little to do but chatter to one another, or groups of neurotic fanatics who want to reform the world by preachments. The hypothesis...

    • 4 Voluntary Associations in France
      (pp. 72-115)

      MANY of the great foreign observers of the United States have challenged sociologists with a problem for research which we have been slow to take up: Why are there so many voluntary associations in the United States and why do they play such an important role in the American community and nation? Tocqueville, Bryce, Weber, and Myrdal each raised this question but did not consider it within their province to attempt to answer it.¹ Nor shall the question be answered directly in this study, for the present problem is the logical complement of theirs: Why are there so few voluntary...

    • 5 Some Suggestions for Research on Race and Culture Conflict
      (pp. 116-127)

      THE STUDY of race and culture conflict is both one of the oldest and one of the currently most popular among sociologists, and it has recently been taken up by a significant number of psychologists as well. The bibliography of research reports on the subject, not to speak of essays, is huge and seems to be growing at an irregularly accelerating rate. Yet, as in the case of so many other research areas in sociology and social psychology, the studies do not have a cumulative character; that is, most of the recent studies have not built on earlier ones but...

    • 6 Group Conflict and Its Mediation: Hypotheses for Research
      (pp. 128-150)

      WHILE various scholars have sought to claim that intergroup conflict¹ has a single source—such as in a struggle for control over the means of production (Marx) or in an inevitable opposition because of racial differences (Gumplowicz)—a survey of actual cases in history reveals that there are several distinct types of intergroup conflict with correspondingly distinct etiologies. To insist that there is but one source of motivation for group conflict is to distort the facts and to misdirect the search for cures. A survey of historical and contemporary group conflicts suggests the following working classification: power, or conflict over...


    • 7 The Selection of Problems for Research
      (pp. 153-168)

      SOCIAL data are so infinitely numerous and diverse that any scientific study must select its facts in accordance with the needs of the problem and the method. Historians have long recognized that they do not present all history, and to do so would mean never to complete a work and never to see the major changes of history because of the mass of detail. The psychiatrists have always been aware that an individual can literally spend a lifetime telling his life history and that, therefore, what is significant is what he selects to tell.

      While the proposition that the scientist...

    • 8 Where Social Action and Social Research Meet
      (pp. 169-178)

      THE PHRASE “action research” seems to have been coined by the late psychologist Kurt Lewin.¹ He thought of it as applying primarily to experimental research in ongoing social situations, although it was quickly extended to all practical social research. If the term was new, the idea was not. Chapin published a paper on experimentation in realistic social situations in 1917,² and in subsequent years he and his students carried out such experiments. The idea is even older; whenever man has had the idea of experimenting with social relations or social structures and observing the changed results, there has been action...

    • 9 The Social Responsibility of the Social Scientist
      (pp. 179-192)

      THE INCREASE of knowledge about the control of the physical world has raised in the minds of informed citizens the question as to whether society will be able to control this knowledge. The problem has demanded a more immediate solution with the invention of the atomic and the hydrogen bombs. The question used to be raised as to how we could prevent the machine from enslaving man; the one now more frequently raised is how we can prevent atomic energy from destroying man and his civilization. How can our society gain the wisdom, the good will, and the commonness of...


    • 10 The Potential Contribution of Sociological Theory and Research to Economics
      (pp. 195-209)

      HOWEVER economics is defined, it is considered to be a special social science that examines the interrelations of only a limited set of factors. At the same time, economists are interested in predictingconcreteeconomic conditions and in making suggestions about economicpolicy. It can be demonstrated—and this chapter attempts to contribute to this demonstration—that, to a significant extent, concrete economic conditions are affected by factors that the economist has traditionally considered to be outside his purview, and that policies designed to achieve strictly economic goalsmusttake into consideration noneconomic influences. Among the noneconomic factors and influences...

    • 11 Public Opinion Research Techniques Suggested by Sociological Theory
      (pp. 210-219)

      PUBLIC opinion research got its start in the practical hands of market researchers, industrial engineers, and newspaper and magazine editors. Academic psychologists and sociologists had an early interest in attitude studies in small groups but did not participate significantly in public opinion polling until the mid-1930s. As a consequence, the research procedures were developed before social science theory could influence them very much. That lag has existed to the present time, although periodically psychologists and sociologists issue critiques of one or another aspect of public opinion research in terms of the knowledge built up in their specialized disciplines.¹ The lag...

    • 12 The Hiatus between Sociology and Psychology
      (pp. 220-227)

      PSYCHOLOGY and sociology have been very closely affiliated in the United States. Along with anthropology, they have sought to be “basic” social sciences—that is, to explain the fundamentals of human behavior. They share a common field, social psychology. There has always been communication between their respective practitioners, and this communication has been growing.¹ But there have been historical differences between them which have often prevented their intercommunications from being mutually intelligible and which have sometimes prevented effective research collaboration. The purpose of this chapter is to make explicit some of the underlying differences between the disciplines, in the hope...

    • 13 Problems in the Sociology of Law and Law Enforcement
      (pp. 228-242)

      THERE are at least four general areas of interest to students of law in which the types of research usually conducted by sociologists and social psychologists would be of great usefulness. These concern (1) the formulation of legislative measures, (2) the formulation of judicial decisions, (3) the consequences of laws and judicial decisions, and (4) the function of law.

      When a bill is introduced into a legislature, certain social conditions are presumed to exist which need the correction or change which the bill is designed to effect. A legislative committee conducts hearings, of voluntary or subpoenaed witnesses, to ascertain whether...


    • 14 A Basic Methodological Issue in Sociology: Problem Orientation versus Method Orientation
      (pp. 245-255)

      A METHODOLOGICAL issue which besets sociology today, one which underlies so many of the other issues, is the argument over the primacy of subject matter or of method. Proponents of the primacy of subject matter hold that the topics for research¹ are set either by value premises external to science or by theoretical developments within science, that the selection of a topic is a very important step in scientific work even if the criteria for selection are not scientific, and that each topic makes its own unique selection of research techniques, which must be adapted to meet the particular requirements...

    • 15 Generalizations in the Social Sciences
      (pp. 256-272)

      MY concern in this chapter is to indicate something about the nature of the operations necessary to achieve generalizations in the inductive social sciences. There is a certain confusion among some social scientists between the conditions necessary for generalization, which might be called “generalizability,” and the generalization itself. For example, there is an incorrect belief that by dealing with the “forms” or “processes” of human behavior, rather than the “content,” one achieves generalizations regardless of the representativeness of the data used. Another phrase frequently used is that by “abstracting to a higher conceptual level” one achieves generalizations regardless of the...

    • 16 Conditions of the Social Science Experiment
      (pp. 273-281)

      WHEN experiments are performed on social objects, special attention needs to be paid to certain features of the experiment which the experimenter on physical or biological objects can afford to overlook. It is not that the intrinsic characteristics of the experiment are different in the social and natural sciences, but that the characteristics of the social object and the social context of the experimenter are sufficiently different to warrant special consideration. Chapin,¹ Greenwood,² and others have performed an excellent service for sociologists by pointing out the ways in which the experimental method could be adapted to social science problems and...

    • 17 A Weakness of Partial Correlation in Sociological Studies
      (pp. 282-290)

      THE SIMPLE correlation—a measure of the extent to which changes in one variable are associated with changes in another variable—has frequently been deprecated by statisticians. It is said to be of minor value because it seldom gives knowledge of scientific cause-and-effect relationships. Partial correlation, on the other hand, has been praised since it is thought to approximate the scientific experiment in which the concomitant variation between two factors can be noted when irrelevancies are held constant. It is the thesis of this chapter that for most kinds of social data the partial correlation comes no closer to the...


    • 18 Attitude Measurement and the Questionnaire Survey
      (pp. 293-305)

      MUCH of the basic raw material of social science consists of the beliefs and attitudes of men. These presumably exist in men’s minds, and one task of the social scientists is to get a fair representation of them down on paper. Traditionally, this work of the social psychologist and the sociologist has been known as “attitude measurement,” although recent commercial use of some of the techniques has popularized the term “public opinion poll.”

      To some outsiders, the public opinion poll looks deceptively easy: you just ask people questions and add up their answers, and you know what they are thinking....

    • 19 A Research Note on Experimentation in Interviewing
      (pp. 306-308)

      THE EMPHASIS on objectivity has, in one respect at least, seriously restricted the information which social scientists have been able to get from interviews. This drive toward objectivity has taken the form of setting up restrictive mechanical rules rather than of demanding conscious honesty on the part of the scientist. The interviewer is supposed to present uncolored questions and to take down the subject’s answers as given, that is, to act as a combined phonograph and recording system.

      This technique may be essential when untrained or unsophisticated interviewers are employed to get data for analysts working independently of them. It...

    • 20 The Use of “Informal Small Samples” in Mass Communications Research
      (pp. 309-319)

      FOR THE purposes of this chapter, “informal small sample” studies will be taken to be those which do not permit statistically reliable conclusions, not only because an insufficient number of cases is used, but also because the sample is not representative. “Small sample” is, thus, not used in the ways that either R. A. Fisher or Hadley Cantril use the term, but in the sense of those who have advocated a “case history” approach. In this definition, “small sample” cannot include the entire universe,¹ but rather a nonrepresentative “chunk” of the universe. Although this chapter is limited to small sample...

    • 21 Popular Logic in the Study of Covert Culture
      (pp. 320-326)

      STUDENTS of society have often observed a tendency for various parts of a culture to be dependent on one another in a logical fashion, and some students have used this observation as a methodological rule for the study of a given culture. The functional anthropologists have made greatest use of this rule. Among sociologists, Sumner (“drive toward consistency”), Durkheim, and Parsons have been outstanding in their reliance on it.

      Without necessarily taking a thoroughgoing functionalist point of view, we can perhaps agree that there are certain areas of OUT culture which can profitably be studied in terms of an assumption...

    • 22 A Deductive Ideal-Type Method
      (pp. 327-342)

      THE PURPOSE of this chapter is to indicate how a method which has received wide application in economics can be applied to some sociological problems. In economics a deductive method was developed by Adam Smith, the utilitarians, Jevons, Marshall, and others before Roscher, Veblen, Commons, and later “institutionalists” arrived at an inductive method.¹ The deductive method is still in wide use in economics, but little effort has been made to apply it in sociology. Sociologists like Weber, von Wiese, and Becker have made significant application of ideal-type methodology, but they have not considered it within their province to associate deduction...

  10. Index
    (pp. 343-351)