From Positivism to Post-Positivism: Progress or Digression?

Martyn Hammersley


During the first half of the 20th century, approaches developed across the social sciences that were strongly influenced by positivist ideas. Indeed, it could be said that the very notion of a social science was positivist in origin. Moreover, even aft er positivism’s influence had waned in many fields, in the second half of that century, it continued to exist at the very least as a ghostly presence, serving as a recurrent target for attack in methodological disputes. I begin by briefly outlining the history of positivist ideas and the various forms they took, along with their implications for the practice of social science. Then I consider two distinct varieties of ‘post-positivism’; one revisionist, the other much more radical. I conclude by considering in what respects these moves beyond positivism represent progress, and  whether anything can still be learned from it today.

Słowa kluczowe: positivism and social science, post-positivism, Comte, political arithmetic, constructionism

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