Empirical Knowledge and Social Values in the Cumulative Development of Sociology

  • Stefan Nowak
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 94)


The task of our Symposium is to answer the question whether there is a crisis in sociology.* I think the fact that such a question has been asked at an international meeting of sociologists constitutes at least a partial answer to it. It implies that there are a sufficient number of sociologists who feel that their discipline might be in a critical situation. Before trying to answer the question directly, let us consider what kind of crisis they might have in mind, because a crisis in a science may mean any of at least three different things:
  1. (1)

    First, it can mean that the given science cannot develop or even cannot exist in a certain set of social conditions, because these conditions do not, in the most simple and external sense, permit it to do so. The means used can range from the pressure of public opinion not to develop it, through denial of the economic means necessary to the science, to simple bureaucratic decision blocking the development of the science as a whole or in certain essential sub-areas.

  2. (2)

    Second, it can mean that the science, developing more or less ‘correctly’ from the point of view of certain internal standards, does not fulfill some of its external social functions in the way it should according to certain normative standards of its social functions. In such case we may be inclined to blame the situation on either the society for not using the science in the ‘proper’ way, or the scientists themselves for developing their discipline in such a way that it is of little social relevance.



Social Theory Social Reality Social Goal Empirical Knowledge Empirical Validity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1976

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  • Stefan Nowak

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