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The Extended Case Method

Michael Burawoy
Sociological Theory
Vol. 16, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), pp. 4-33
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/202212
Page Count: 30
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The Extended Case Method
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Abstract

In this article I elaborate and codify the extended case method, which deploys participant observation to locate everyday life in its extralocal and historical context. The extended case method emulates a reflexive model of science that takes as its premise the intersubjectivity of scientist and subject of study. Reflexive science valorizes intervention, process, structuration, and theory reconstruction. It is the Siamese twin of positive science that proscribes reactivity, but upholds reliability, replicability, and representativeness. Positive science, exemplified by survey research, works on the principle of the separation between scientists and the subjects they examine. Positive science is limited by "context effects" (interview, respondent, field, and situational effects) while reflexive science is limited by "power effects" (domination, silencing, objectification, and normalization). The article concludes by considering the implications of having two models of science rather than one, both of which are necessarily flawed. Throughout I use a study of postcolonialism to illustrate both the virtues and the shortcomings of the extended case method. Methodology can only bring us reflective understanding of the means which have demonstrated their value in practice by raising them to the level of explicit consciousness; it is no more the precondition of fruitful intellectual work than the knowledge of anatomy is the precondition of "correct" walking.

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