Value and Objectivity, the Utility of Max Weber’s Methodology in Politics

Document Type : Research Paper


Assistant Professor in Political science, Faculty of Administrative Science and Economics, Arak University,, Arak,, Iran



One of the most important questions raised in the methodology of social science— as compared to natural science methodology— is concerned with the relationship between objectivity and reality. Max Weber was a well-known social theorist of the twentieth century, who tried to find the best methodology for the social science research which had the characteristics of being objective and scientific. As a scientist, Weber conducted extensive research in various fields of law, economics, history, sociology, and concentrated his efforts on presenting a sound method for cultural and social science research. In fact, he is viewed as one of the influential pioneers and architects of the works on social sciences methodology. Weber's ideas as a methodologist of the cultural and social sciences have remained pertinent, and are still taken into consideration in methodological discourse. Thus, a score of scholars has examined and discussed the  nature of Weber's ideas on value freedom and the role of social science, and even  the usefulness of his ideas for the methodology of a given discipline (such as political science). Some have argued that social sciences should be value free, and the problem of researchers’ value-intrusion leading to inadequate objectivity ought to be addressed. In contrast, others have advocated all the methods in the social sciences that make social research more relevant to the social problems. In their view, since the value of social research is to be judged by its social and cultural utility, politically-motivated and politically-guided research can also produce valuable results and be scientifically worthy.
In this paper, the author discusses Max Weber's methodology, particularly focusing on the concepts of value and objectivity. The primary research questions is, “How should one defend the objectivity of cultural and social sciences without using the positivist methods?” One can hardly disagree with the argument that social science research must be based on actual facts and reasoning, rather than guided by insufficient evidence and biased judgment. However, it is difficult to agree that the main goal of all social science research ought to be value-neutrality and objectivity. By adopting an analytical-descriptive approach, Weber’s relevant writings about ‘objectivity’ and ‘value neutrality’ in the social science research are identified and analyzed by the use of qualitative conceptual analysis.  The goal was to examine the significance of Weber’s arguments on the methodology of the social sciences, and particularly his concepts of value freedom, value relation as applied to the sphere of politics, in addition to other pertinent aspects of Weber’s methodological position. Weber does not recommend indifference to political issues. The most important finding of this research is to show the relationship between the two concepts of value and objectivity in the study of politics, especially the role of political values in the research process. By separating the political value-relation of scholars from their political valuations, it would be possible to obtain scientific explanations in sociopolitical research.   


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