One reason Sociology cannot be value-free

I’ve been a student of sociology for about six years now. One thing about sociology is we get to study groups and anything pertaining to them; their actions, perceptions and the likes. One thing we keep at the back of our minds is that nothing in this world; as regards the study of groups; is constant. The only constant variable in sociology is change.

Before I continue, I would love to add that this is just a brief and concise explanation of the subject matter.

It’s very important that I should note that before my next point, there is so much background to discuss.

With that in mind, one thing or motive or, of you will, question on sociology is based on the value-free stand of sociology. That is, “can sociology be value-free?”.

What does it mean to be value free? It’s simple, the founding fathers of sociology wanted the discipline to just be like the natural sciences where one could place ‘actors’ in a particular scenario, study them and arrive at conclusions like it is in the natural sciences, like Chemistry and Physics. In studying these elements, in the natural sciences, they place all their procedures under facts and figures. They measure, test, conduct experiments to arrive at conclusions, facts and even laws. We have the law of gravity, the popular law by Isaac Newton that states everything that goes up, must come down except it’s just suspended in the air. All these are based on facts and figures.

But we aren’t studying static, irrational or less rational objects and animals, we are studying human beings. Human beings are intelligent and rational (Omololu, 2018). Then, how does a sociologist study human beings without adding personal opinions, thoughts and feelings into it. Karl Marx, in his works, while trying to explain the society from his point of view stated that the society is ever in conflict. W. W. Rostow implied that developing societies have to follow the steps the developed world used in being developed or gaining development. Some of these works by past sociologists have had some aspects of values in them.

My argument is simple; we can’t have a value-free stand in sociology. You’d ask me why!

One thing that isn’t distant to individuals is socialization. That is, the way society has trained us. We cannot see something that is radically different from the way we have been trained and like it. Practically, a racist white man cannot take any job where a black man is boss. It’s just socialization. Also, in some African societies, a man cannot bow to the woman as the breadwinner in the house. Again, it’s socialization. Karl Marx propounded conflict theory because he was looking at the society from the view point of the proletariat (workers, if you will) and not the bourgeois (owners of the means of production). If reverse was the case, how do you think his theory would have been?

Therefore, as long as socialization is an integral part of every individual, no sociological theory can be value free. In fact, sociology in itself cannot be rid of values. Except we rid ourselves of socialization we cannot rid ourselves of our values.

Practically, a sociologist who as hatred towards gay people can never write something positive in that line even after research has been carried out. Someone that is being frustrated would see employers of labour as exploiters. A feminist would only carry out research that would favour feminism. Just like its almost impossible for a man from patriarchal society to use feminist theory positively.

We cannot be value-free in sociology of we still hold on to socialization. But, since society cannot grow without socialization, we therefore, cannot be value free in our thinking.

Keywords:

Value-free : being rid of personal opinion in carrying out sociological research.

Sociology: the systematic and scientific study of groups or people in the society.

Socialization: a continual learning process. It’s the transference of values, norms and traditions from generation to generation.

#LEKE

13 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for your laudable effort at intimating us about the intricacies of Sociology. However, I have a request for you, kindly justify the relevance of Sociology in the 21st century. I’m eagerly awaiting your response sir. Thanks.

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  2. Nice work on the perspective Mr. Leke.
    I won’t mind, if you can enlighten us on “The reason why sociologist are been underrated in Nigeria in terms of a getting a profitable job with befitting financial return” and also “What is the way forward for sociologists in being economically competitive against other disciplines”.
    Thank you

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  3. It seems likely that one could turn sociology into something practical despite the inevitability of people having conditioned biases. A solid foundation could be made of Maslow’s hierarchy. On that one could build a moral system from a purely rational source. Design it as if you had no idea what position in the society you would occupy. The former provides a target (“that which people need and want”) and the latter provides the motivation to realize it as universally as possible.

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    1. Very good!! I applaud your critical thinking and I also agree with you. The very point I’m trying to make is that as long as humans remain humans, sociology, as a discipline, and an explanation of practical phenomena, can not be value-free. However, sociology holds the right to truth. In the sense that no matter the angle you view society, they would be an explanation for it. Therefore, sociology is very practical. It’s only a pity that society doesn’t seem to understand the deeper understanding of the applicability of sociology.

      Thank you so much. This means so much.

      Like

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