Quality & Quantity 33: 395–410, 1999.
© 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Committed Objectivity in
Department of Criminology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, G-1 McElhaney Hall, 441 North
Walk, Indiana, Pennsylvania 15705-1087, U.S.A.
Abstract. This article argues that objectivity and commitment are different but that they are artic-
ulated rather than being separate issues in social research. This article challenges those who believe
that objectivity is impossible or undesirable as well as those who believe that commitment is unde-
sirable in social science. This approach is close to the call by Sandra Harding (1991, 1993) that the
methods of science should be applied to science itself by raising the women question in science and
the science question in women’s studies. Here, she develops her earlier analysis of feminist research
agenda in science in terms of empiricism, standpoint epistemology and post-modern feminism. In this
paper, a slightly different formulation will be advanced to resolve what could be said to be a false
dichotomy between objectivity and commitment. Committed objectivity or objective commitment
could be used to capture the inextricability of the articulation of the processes of commitment and
objectivity. The article concludes that both objectivity and commitment are necessary elements of
good research by all researchers irrespective of (or even because of) race-class-gender differences.
Key words: objectivity, commitment, articulation, race-class-gender, rationality.
Harding attempts to answer the reservations of post-modernist feminism regarding
the desirability or practicality of applying the objectivism of a ﬂawed Enlighten-
ment epistemology to a liberatory scholarship. She argues that ‘Physics is a bad
model for physics’ but suggests that this is because the objectivism of physics is not
strengthened by socially situated knowledge. In conclusion, she calls for a science
that is not illiterate of race-class-gender standpoints. This is because such literacy
by scientists would contribute to the strengthening of objectivity that the scientists
aim at. Harding refers to the black standpoint feminist, Patricia Hill Collins (1986)
who argues that
as outsiders within, Black feminist scholars may be one of many distinct
groups of marginal intellectuals whose standpoints promise to enrich socio-
This paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology, San
Diego, 19–22 November 1997. Thanks to my former employers, Liverpool John Moores Univer-
sity, and to the British Academy for sponsoring my participation at the ASC meeting with a staff
development grant and an overseas conference grant, respectively.