Changing Society - What is the Role of the Sociologist?

696 WordsFeb 4, 20183 Pages
Sociology is commonly understood to be the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society [1]. Since the dawn of this social science, grand theorists such as Durkheim, Engels, Marx, Comte and Weber have aimed to organise and discover knowledge about the social realm. Nevertheless the Weberian distinction between the role of the sociologist as a positivist scientist and an interpretivist citizen has been increasingly called into question, predominantly in a modern (and arguably post-modern) context. Rather, Gamson (1968) highlights "a significant number of younger sociologists conceive a different image of the professional role". Sociologists are employed by universities, government agencies, foundations, corporations and other official bodies. Moreover many sociologists divide their time between teaching and research. Considering the plethora of academic roles a sociologist can have, it may be more logical to ask what are the roles of the sociologist? The factor of value neutrality versus value commitment is a particularly acute question. Sociologists seek to discover knowledge, yet should they tell said society how this knowledge should be used? The fundamental question is whether or not sociology should be value-free. To illustrate, early sociologists gave support to all sorts of public policies they believed in. From the 1920s to the 1940s, many sociologists transitioned to the view that sociology should be a science; discovering knowledge, but not

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