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POSITIVISM AND TYPES OF THEORIES IN SOCIOLOGY

JOANNA HEIDTMAN, KINGA WYSIENSKA and JACEK SZMATKA
Sociological Focus
Vol. 33, No. 1 (February 2000), pp. 1-26
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20832061
Page Count: 26
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POSITIVISM AND TYPES OF THEORIES IN SOCIOLOGY
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Abstract

The history, development, and progress of sociological theories can be interpreted in terms of continuous attempts to make sociology a scientific discipline. Sociological theory gradually advances methodologically. From the least methodologically developed theories (first genus), more methodologically advanced theories (second and third genus) evolve. The major criterion of this process is not the growth of empirical content, but the growth in terms of a progressive ability in application of scientific method by a given theory. Theories of the third genus accept methodological standards of the "hard sciences." They are abstract, general, universal, and empirically testable. We maintain that there is one universal scientific method for all science. The idea of the unity of science was one of the rules that constituted positivism, which is why the question arises about the link between positivism and third genus theory construction. In this article we examine these links to show that positivist ideas have limited impact on scientific methods used in theory construction procedures. First, we explain our conception of positivism. We discern four stages of positivism: an early stage of positivism, logical positivism, a later stage called instrumental positivism, and finally postpositivism. Then we show how positivism as a philosophy of science does not accord with a conception of theory testing and theory development that is widely used in third genus theories. This conception is new in sociology, but it has long been used in natural theoretical sciences. We examine the methodological link between postpositivism as a critique of neopositivism, and third genus theory construction.

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