Participatory action research: Should social inquiry be conducted democratically?

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 31 (1):60-82 (2001)
Abstract
of democratizing social inquiry by actively engaging the subject in the design and conduct of research. Drawing on four examples of PAR-based social science and a democratic reconstruction of "epistemic privilege," this article argues that philosophers need to take seriously PAR's notion that democratic norms should guide social inquiry. But it does not advocate replacing mainstream or expert-directed social science by PAR. Instead, it maintains that it is both possible and sensible for PAR practitioners to collaborate with conventional research. Indeed, certain forms of nonparticipatory social science seem indispensable for any extensive application of the PAR framework. The article concludes by drawing out its (controversial) implications for two central issues in the philosophy of social science: first, that the methods of social inquiry are distinct from those in the natural sciences and, second, that there is a sense in which social research can and should be "value neutral.".
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