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Styles of Sociological Thought: Sociologies, Epistemologies, and the Mexican and U.S. Quests for Truth

Gabriel Abend
Sociological Theory
Vol. 24, No. 1 (Mar., 2006), pp. 1-41
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25046707
Page Count: 41
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Styles of Sociological Thought: Sociologies, Epistemologies, and the Mexican and U.S. Quests for Truth
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Abstract

Both U.S. and Mexican sociologies allege that they are in the business of making true scientific knowledge claims about the social world. Conventional conceptions of science notwithstanding, I demonstrate that their claims to truth and scientificity are based on alternative epistemological grounds. Drawing a random sample of nonquantitative articles from four leading journals, I show that, first, they assign a different role to theories, and indeed they have dissimilar understandings of what a theory should consist of. Second, whereas U.S. sociology actively struggles against subjectivity, Mexican sociology maximizes the potentials of subjective viewpoints. Third, U.S. sociologists tend to regard highly and Mexican sociologists to eagerly disregard the principle of ethical neutrality. These consistent and systematic differences raise two theoretical issues. First, I argue that Mexican and U.S. sociologies are epistemologically, semantically, and perceptually incommensurable. I contend that this problem is crucial for sociology's interest in the social conditioning of scientific knowledge's content. Second, I suggest four lines of thought that can help us explain the epistemological differences I find. Finally, I argue that sociologists would greatly profit from studying epistemologies in the same fashion they have studied other kinds of scientific and nonscientific beliefs.

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