Positivism: to what extent does it aid our understanding of the contemporary social world?

Positivism: to what extent does it aid our understanding of the contemporary social world? There is a stereotypical belief among many researchers that the social world is complex in nature, and it cannot be investigated by employing a positivist approach. While the extant body of literature mostly support this notion, this brief theoretical paper, however, presents some critical arguments against this and goes onto claim that positivism also aids our understanding of the contemporary social world to a certain extent. It has been argued that the quantifiable methods of the natural sciences are also appropriate for studying the social world in some cases, such as large-scale social surveys and cross-country social research. To begin with, a critical commentary on the history of positivism is provided and the essence of positivist epistemology in exploring different elements of the social world is then discussed. Finally, the paper establishes that both positivism and interpretivism can be seen as appropriate to some level of analysis of meaningful social action. The former is most suited for large-scale social surveys or for providing descriptive information about the social world while the latter is more appropriate to understand the complex actions of social members and to capture the multiple realities of the society. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Quality & Quantity Springer Journals

Positivism: to what extent does it aid our understanding of the contemporary social world?

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Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright © 2014 by Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht
Subject
Social Sciences; Methodology of the Social Sciences; Social Sciences, general
ISSN
0033-5177
eISSN
1573-7845
D.O.I.
10.1007/s11135-014-0150-4
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

There is a stereotypical belief among many researchers that the social world is complex in nature, and it cannot be investigated by employing a positivist approach. While the extant body of literature mostly support this notion, this brief theoretical paper, however, presents some critical arguments against this and goes onto claim that positivism also aids our understanding of the contemporary social world to a certain extent. It has been argued that the quantifiable methods of the natural sciences are also appropriate for studying the social world in some cases, such as large-scale social surveys and cross-country social research. To begin with, a critical commentary on the history of positivism is provided and the essence of positivist epistemology in exploring different elements of the social world is then discussed. Finally, the paper establishes that both positivism and interpretivism can be seen as appropriate to some level of analysis of meaningful social action. The former is most suited for large-scale social surveys or for providing descriptive information about the social world while the latter is more appropriate to understand the complex actions of social members and to capture the multiple realities of the society.

Journal

Quality & QuantitySpringer Journals

Published: Dec 23, 2014

References

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