Analysis and Textuality: Players, Dreamers and Despots in Sociological Research
In the previous chapter, I outlined and illustrated some of the main ontological assumptions shared by a number of influential contemporary social theories. In other words, the chapter dealt with what the social world is like, what it is made up of and what is in it. I outlined many of the bold ontological assumptions of these realist metatheories. If ontology tells us what is in the social world, epistemology asks how we know that such and such is in the world. In the present chapter, and in the remainder of the book, I want to shift the focus of attention to the latter sort of question, to epistemology and methodology. I will argue that the increased appreciation given by contemporary social theory to the richness and complexity of the social world needs to be accompanied by a parallel appreciation of the difficulties and obstacles confronting attempts to gain knowledge about that complexity. Increased sophistication in the former needs to be matched by a corresponding increase in the latter. Elements of such sophistication have been surfacing in different parts of the epistemological pool — those relevant to my argument here emerging in the main from anthropology, literary theory, feminist theory and philosophy — but they have not been systematised in relation to models of the research process as a whołe, nor to the sociological research process in particular.
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