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The Comparative Method and the Special Vocation of the Sociology of Religion

William H. Swatos
Sociological Analysis
Vol. 38, No. 2 (Summer, 1977), pp. 106-114
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3710171
Page Count: 9
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The Comparative Method and the Special Vocation of the Sociology of Religion
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Abstract

This essay argues that the long-run scientific goals of understanding and prediction can be achieved only through a consciousness of the comparative method as the method of scientific analysis. Specifically three points are made: (1) That the social sciences must be both transhistorical and cross-cultural in orientation and that history is essential to sociological generalizations. (2) That quantification, no matter how sophisticated the techniques employed, does not "obviate the judgment input" and that all analyses thus have a qualitative character. (3) That historically the sociology of religion has had a particularly clear awareness of the necessity for a consciousness of the past in interpreting the present and that this must not be lost in an attempt to embrace certain quantitative techniques that give a "more scientific" appearance to our work.

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