You are not currently logged in. Please create an account or log in to view the full course.

Objectivity in Social Research

2. Max Weber and Value Freedom

This is the course trailer. Please create an account or log in to view this lecture.

  • Description
  • Cite

About this Lecture


In this module we think about Max Weber’s notion of objectivity, known as the principle of value freedom. We focus particularly on: (i) Weber’s argument that objectivity means producing scientific facts about society only, not moral evaluations; (ii) his ideas about political values and biases as something to be resisted in research; (iii) his argument that sociology has no authority to make evaluations; (iv) Weber’s views on the proper role of sociology in politics as a producer of facts which inform policy and opinion, rather than evaluations.


In this course, Professor Martyn Hammersley (The Open University) explores the concept of objectivity within sociology and social research. In the first module, we think about the development of the concept from the early twentieth century and some key questions associated with it. In the second, we examine Max Weber’s notion of value freedom, before looking in the third at the objectivist version of objectivity as the adoption of standardised, replicable research methods. In the fourth and fifth modules, we consider Alvin Gouldner’s critique of value freedom and his idea of objective partisanship, and standpoint epistemology through Sandra Harding’s work on strong objectivity. In the final two modules, we explore arguments that reject objectivity in its entirety, before concluding with a summary of key debates.


Professor Martyn Hammersley is Emeritus Professor of Educational and Social Research at the Open University. His work focuses on issues in sociological research methods, particularly relating to objectivity and bias. His recent publications include The Concept of Culture: A History and Reappraisal (2019), The Radicalism of Ethnomethodology: An Assessment of Sources and Principles (2018) and The Limits of Social Science: Causal Explanation and Value Relevance (2014).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hammersley, M. (2021, August 24). Objectivity in Social Research - Max Weber and Value Freedom [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hammersley, M. "Objectivity in Social Research – Max Weber and Value Freedom." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 24 Aug 2021,

Image Credits

Get instant access to over 6,200 lectures