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Purdue Online Writing Lab. Common Words that Sound Alike Numbers: Text Elements Visual Rhetoric: Process and Materials Overview: An Introduction Researching Programs: Practical Considerations Researching Programs: Drafting Your Statement Statements of Purpose: Could objectivity, for instance, be used to show that one value is superior to another? Or does objectivity apply only to the analysis of facts?
Do one's values or perspective stem from human nature, metaphysical views, personal identity, or is it just as likely that they are a mere construct of culture?
These questions, and others like them, underlie much that has been considered ambiguous in Max Weber's writings: Since his death, sociologists and political scientists have been disputing where Weber stood with regard to questions concerning the relationship of objectivity to facts and values.
This essay has more humble ambitions. Although it takes issue in the final section with part of the exhaustive view laid out by Portis, this essay does not purport to set forth yet another definitive interpretation of Weber's views on objectivity. Rather it seeks to shed light on Weber's view of the applicability of objectivity by attempting to answer the overarching question that sits at the foundation of those posed above: Was Weber an advocate of value-free social science?
The answer, as will be shown, is both yes and no -- because, this essay will argue, Weber maintained a two-tiered approach to value-free social science. On the one hand, he believed that ultimate values could not be justified "scientifically," that is, through value-free analysis.
Thus, in comparing different religious, political or social systems, one system could not be chosen over another without taking a value or end into consideration; the choice would necessarily be dictated by the analyst's values. On the other hand, Weber believed that once a value, end, purpose, or perspective had been established, then a social scientist could conduct a value-free investigation into the most effective means within a system of bringing about the established end.
Similarly, Weber believed that objective comparisons among systems could also be made once a particular end had been established, acknowledged, and agreed upon, a position that allowed Weber to make what he considered objective comparisons among such economic systems as capitalism and socialism.
Thus, even though Weber maintained that ultimate values could not be evaluated objectively, this belief did not keep him from believing that social problems could be scientifically resolved -- once a particular end or value had been established. But first, just what is Weber's own standpoint, as determined by his ultimate values?
It is, no doubt, influenced by one of his key concerns: And in yet other essays, it champions individual liberty. Indeed, Weber's perspective changes, and it is likely to be driven not by one value but by levels of them, ranging from humanism to a concrete objective.
But the fact that Weber had a perspective lends little support to the two-tiered interpretation, other than to show that he believed it was permissible for a social scientist to possess a value-determined standpoint.
His treatment of perspective is another matter, however. One hint that begins to shed light on Weber's view on the fact-value question is a characteristic that recurs in several of Weber's essays and speeches: Weber announces, often at the beginning of a speech or essay, the standpoint from which he plans to evaluate a given situation or set of facts.
Likewise, if he changes his focus during a presentation, he often declares the new standpoint. In his opening remarks of "The Nation State and Economic Policy," one of Weber's early speeches, he sets a precedent for this pattern while unveiling a justification for his perspective.
Similarly, in one of his later lectures, "The Profession and Vocation of Politics," Weber tells his audience near the beginning of his remarks that he will expose "the political deficiency of this system Although Weber often announces the value from which he intends to analyze a particular policy, he also acknowledges that the value may be merely a construct of one's culture or society.
An example of the influence of culture upon perspective lies in Weber's comments about political economy. As soon as the method of analysis known as political economy makes value judgments, Weber says, "it is tied to the particular strain of humankind Menschentum we find within our own nature.
The economic policy of a German state, and, equally, the criterion of value used by a German economic theorist, can therefore only be a German policy or criterion. Regardless of whether a social scientist's value-orientation stems from cultural norms, nationality, or a worldview, what remains certain for Weber is that the value is neither intrinsic to the subject matter nor specific to its context -- a view that categorically separates value from facts. Weber takes care to refute such views in his discussion of the methodology of political economy in "The Nation State and Economic Policy.
The notion that there are independent or socio-political ideals shows itself to be a delusion as soon as one delves into the literature in an attempt to identify the basis for its evaluation, Weber says. For Weber, it is less important what another analyst's core values are than whether he clarifies them for the benefit of both himself and his audience.
Weber also criticizes those scientists who often "unconsciously allow the starting point for our analyses and explanations of economic events to determine our judgements of these events," 10 demonstrating that he separates the subjectivity of value-orientation from the objective evaluation that is carried out after the value orientation has been established.
In other words, Weber is chastising those scientists who allow the subjectivity of their perspective to determine their analysis of the facts. As examples of the economic scientists who have made this mistake, Weber points to the historical apologists and to the Marxists. What matters even more to Weber is whether one adheres unflinchingly to his values.
In "The Profession and Vocation of Politics," Weber explicitly articulates how one must look at life from a chosen value: To be "a match for them inwardly" is to cling to one's values even in the face of the inevitable "polar night of icy darkness.
How can Weber's arguments for his ultimate values be reconciled with the view that value-free analysis can be conducted only after a value or purpose has been established?
Lassman and Speirs, in their introduction to Weber: Political Writings, provide the answer. Weber's "scholarly investigations and political essays have the purpose of making clear, in an objective manner as possible, the realities and possibilities given in any particular situation.
Having examined Weber's views of the role of perspective and values in social scientific analysis, the evidence, both from Weber's writings and from commentaries on them, must now be considered in support of the interpretation that Weber took a two-tiered approach to value-free social science.
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An essay on Max Weber's view of objectivity in social science, by Steve Hoenisch.
An essay has been defined in a variety of ways. One definition is a "prose composition with a focused subject of discussion" or a "long, systematic discourse". It is difficult to define the genre into which essays fall. The Purdue University Online Writing Lab serves writers from around the world and the Purdue University Writing Lab helps writers on Purdue's campus.
Richard Fariña: Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me New York: Random House, April 28, Click on covers for larger images and more info. Click here for reviews and literary criticism. "I been down so long, seem like up to me. This type of essay writing is an analysis of a certain reading and basically it is a summary of the point of view presented in this reading and an evaluation of this work.