Sociologiens janushoved(er)

  • Erik Allardt


The Janus Face(s) of Sociology There exists in sociology a continuous tension between a positivitic and herme¬neutic approach. Sociologists perform many activities in a similar manner as natural scientists do. They try to gather data about observable events in a syste¬matic and painstaking manner, and they try to discover regularities and invariant forms in social action and society. On the other hand sociologists are future¬-oriented and many of their theories and concepts are built on images of a world, that has never yet existed. Concepts such as democracy, the welfare state and eco¬nomic equilibrium are ideal images, ne¬ver fully attained. It is important in socio¬logy to work and generalise on observa¬ble data, but it is also important to reali¬se that there are no simple social facts. In societies and social life unpredictable events and situations will always occur. People have begun to see the world and also act in an entirely new way. This due to the open nature of social reality. It does not make social sciences obsolete, but it contains a warning against confident predictions of social tendencies. The polarity and tension between an atomistic, individualist pole and a com¬munitarian, cultural pole is one of the deepest and most pervasive themes in modern thought. In the social sciences this polarity is represented in a dividing line between a structural and a cultural approach. There are good grounds for maintaining that most social phenome¬na can not be explained and understood properly unless both these two approa¬ches are used. The dichotomy between a structural and a cultural approach or a distinction between Gesellschaft and Ge¬meinschaft has been part of sociology for most of its life as a scientific discipline. The present global and social develop¬ments - globalization - have intensified this conflict between instrumental ra¬tionality and the need for communal and cultural identity. Consequently, it has al¬so led to growing efforts in combining the two approaches mentioned above either within sociology in the attempts of combining positivistic and hermeneu¬tic research traditions in addressing the social problems or in the efforts of socio¬logists forming creative and efficient net¬works between sociology and scholars from other disciplines. Both efforts are presently the fertile path in the social sciences but it makes it necessary to be very open to what is happening within other social and human sciences.