THE chaotic and frequently incoherent state of modern sociology, reflected in its theoretical anarchy and the coexistence within it of radically heterogeneous and often incompatible positions, is now widely recognised and commonly deplored. Particularly disturbing in the present situation is that so many recent works in sociological theory and especially, but not only, in the field of deviance have developed an essentially anti-theoretical critique of the forms of proof and types of evidence used by their theoretical opponents. This tendency, which opposes concepts and rationalist forms of demonstration to human ‘experience’ as the foundation of knowledge, is by no means new but is carried to an extreme in modern forms of ethnomethodology and social phenomenology.1 The present text makes no attempt to examine the generality of these positions. Rather, perhaps less ambitiously, it considers recent critiques directed particularly against the use of certain types of evidence in the social sciences. By examining the ways in which materials are collected and aggregated into official statistics, they appear to show that these — and social statistics in general — cannot be taken to represent, more or less accurately, some real state of affairs.
KeywordsOfficial Statistic Tacit Knowledge Theoretical Problem Sociological Theory Present Text
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