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Positivism and Interpretivism in Social Research

1. Introduction to Positivism

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About this Lecture

Lecture

In this module, we provide a broad introduction to the philosophical theory of positivism, focusing in particular on: (i) the two 'waves' of positivism: the first two hundred years ago, and the second at the beginning of the twentieth century; (ii) the work of Auguste Comte (1798-1857), the 'law of three stages', and the development of the theory of positivism; (iii) the second 'wave' of positivism: the Vienna and Berlin Circles, the concept of logical empiricism, and the verification principle; (iv) the impact of Hitler's rise to power in spreading positivism around the world as key thinkers were forced out of central Europe; (v) further developments by figures such as Karl Popper (1902-94), including his preference for a falsification principle instead of a verification principle; and (vi) the gradual weakening of positivism under the impact of its critics, including the work of Thomas Kuhn (1922-96).

Course

In this course, Professor William Outhwaite (Newcastle University) explores the positivist and interpretivist approaches to social research. In the first module, we provide an introduction to positivism, before turning in the second module to some of its criticisms. In the third module, we explore the emergence of interpretivism, thinking first about its combination with positivism in the work of Max Weber (1864-1920), before turning in the fourth module to the polarisation of positivism and interpretivism from about 1920 onwards. In the following two modules, we explore two more interpretivist approaches – ethnomethodology and hermeneutics – before turning in the seventh and final module to consider how the social researcher should negotiate all these different approaches. To what extent are they compatible? Are some 'better' than others?

Lecturer

William Outhwaite is Emeritus Professor is the Department of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University. His research focuses on social theory and the philosophy of social science, and some of his recent publications include Social Theory (2015), Europe Since 1989 (2016), Contemporary Europe (2017) and Transregional Europe (2020), an edited book on Brexit (2017) and (co-edited with Stephen P. Turner) The SAGE Handbook of Political Sociology (2018).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Outhwaite, W. (2021, August 23). Positivism and Interpretivism in Social Research - Introduction to Positivism [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/positivism-and-interpretivism-in-social-research/introduction-to-positivism

MLA style

Outhwaite, William. "Positivism and Interpretivism in Social Research – Introduction to Positivism." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Aug 2021, https://www.massolit.io/courses/positivism-and-interpretivism-in-social-research/introduction-to-positivism