The problem of the objectivity

El problema de la objetividad

The problem of the objectivity , it is already a very hackneyed in the history of the social sciences and humanities, and by more than can be thought of as something to overcome, especially from the paradigm settled by David Bloor and others, the strong programme in the field of the sociology of scientific knowledge, or the sociology of science, for short, there is today manual sociology where it is not addressed –with more or less accuracy– this age-old debate between facts and values in the practice of scientific-social. But not only in the manuals or treatises on sociology, we also find an attention to this problem in many other books for research on specific aspects of the social reality, on many occasions, with a clear purpose of justification is methodological.

Since Max Weber formulated his theory of the “neutral price” of sociology in the meeting of the Verein für Sozialpolitik in 1913 –on the other hand, misunderstood by the rest of social scientists of his time, as we have attempted to show in many occasions (see: Giner, 2010; Ritzer, 2011)– the issue of objectivity in the social sciences has gone through all its history until our days. There are many authors who have contributed to shedding light to the debate of the dichotomy between facts and values; between them, to name a few: Alfred Schutz [the problem of social reality], Abraham Edel [influence of the values: external, internal , and parameter value], Karl Mannheim [Ideology and utopia, and his famous paradox of the impossibility of defining ideology from a position that is not itself ideological], Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann [The social construction of reality], Alvin Gouldner [The antiminotauro. The myth of a sociology, not price], Thomas S. Khun [The structure of scientific revolutions], Michel Foucault [words and things], Pierre Bourdieu [his great concern for the ‘reflexivity’: researching the same scientific practices], David Bloor -already cited- [Knowledge and social imaginary], Donna Haraway [situated cognition], Clifford Geertz [local Knowledge], Paul Ricoeur [Ideology and utopia, but unlike Mannheim who thinks that they are two forms of distortion of reality, for Ricoeur ‘ideology’ and ‘utopia’, in key rhetorical-metaphorical, and from an anthropological-philosophical, both are necessary for the construction of discourse], Edgar Morin [complex Thinking, Science with consciousness], Zygmunt Bauman [Modernity and the holocaust], Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar [Life in The laboratory. The construction of scientific facts]… Of all these authors is collected bibliography at the end.

But in the place which is less than expected, and as already mentioned above, they can be found very interesting things, and that clarified many things about the hoped-for objectivity in science, and I do not mean to the social sciences in particular, but to all the sciences, or any form of knowledge. Or the so-called hard sciences are fought, as well has been able to demonstrate Emmánuel Lizcano in their collective Imagination and creation in mathematics: the social construction of number, space, and impossible in China and in Greece (1993). Said, that where the least one could expect, sometimes you will find paragraphs very engaging concentrate in a few words a great power illuminating on this dilemma of the objectivity, and which well deserve a quote in big letters, as is the case of the book The new criminology. Contribution to a social theory of deviant behavior, of Ian Taylor, Paul Walton and Jock Young (2007: 46):


The objectivity absolute becomes an impossible goal; the facts do not speak for themselves. The “facts, are the product of the work of those who can define what is to be considered “factual” […] and the willingness to accept the definitions given of those who are in a position to do so. In consequence, the social scientist chooses between different universes paradigm; you choose to live in one or the other world “factual”.



  • Bauman, Zygmunt (1997) Modernity and the holocaust. Madrid: Sequitur.
  • Berger, Peter and Luckmann, Thomas (2003) The social construction of reality. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu.
  • Bloor, David (1998) Knowledge and social imaginary. Barcelona: Gedisa.
  • Edel, Abraham (1969) ‘Science and social values: a study of their interpretations’, in: Horowitz, Irving Louis (1969) The New sociology: essays in honor of C. Wright Mills. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu.
  • Foucault, Michel (1982) words and things: an archeology of the human sciences. Mexico: XXI Century.
  • Geertz, Clifford (1994) local Knowledge: essays on the interpretation of cultures. Barcelona [etc]: polity press.
  • Giner, Salvador (2010) Sociology. Barcelona: Peninsula.
  • Gouldner, Alvin (1979a) ‘The antiminotauro. The myth of a sociology, not evaluation’, in: Gouldner, Alvin (1979b) sociology today: renewal and critique. Madrid: Alianza.
  • Gutierrez, Alicia (2002) The social practices: an introduction to Pierre Bourdieu. Ciempozuelos (Madrid): Tierradenadie Editions.
  • Haraway, Donna (1995) Science, cyborgs and women: the reinvention of nature. Madrid: Ediciones Cátedra.
  • Kuhn, Thomas S (2006) The structure of scientific revolutions. Mexico: Economic Culture Fund.
  • Latour, Bruno and Woolgar, Steve (1995) Life in The laboratory. The construction of the scientific facts. Madrid: Alianza Editorial.
  • Lizcano, Emmánuel (1993) collective Imagination and creation in mathematics: the social construction of number, space, and impossible in China and in Greece. Barcelona: Gedisa.
  • Mannheim, Karl (1973) Ideology and utopia: an introduction to the sociology of knowledge. Madrid: Aguilar.
  • Morin, Edgar (1984) Science consciousness Available from: Barcelona: Anthropos.
  • Ricoeur, Paul (1996) Ideology and utopia. Barcelona: Gedisa.
  • Schutz, Alfred (1974) the Problem of social reality. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu.
  • Taylor, Ian, Walton, Paul and Young, Jock (2007) The new criminology. Contribution to a social theory of deviant behavior, 3to Edition. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu.
  • Weber, Max (2010) why you should not make value judgments in sociology and a minor in economics: (the sense of ‘not making judgments of value’ in sociology and in economics). Madrid: Alianza Editorial.

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