Justifying Sociological Knowledge: From Realism to Interpretation

Sociological Theory 26 (2):101 - 129 (2008)
In the context of calls for "postpositivist" sociology, realism has emerged as a powerful and compelling epistemology for social science. In transferring and transforming scientific realism--a philosophy of natural science--into a justificatory discourse for social science, realism splits into two parts: a strict, highly naturalistic realism and a reflexive, more mediated, and critical realism. Both forms of realism, however, suffer from conceptual ambiguities, omissions, and elisions that make them an inappropriate epistemology for social science. Examination of these problems in detail reveals how a different perspective--centered on the interpretation of meaning--could provide a better justification for social inquiry, and in particular a better understanding of sociological theory and the construction of sociological explanations.
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DOI 10.2307/20453100
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