Positivism in Sociology: Definition, Theory & Examples
Positivism is a philosophical movement based on the belief that human knowledge is derived from observable phenomena and that scientific methods are the only way knowledge can be verified. Positivism began to take hold in sociology during the late 1800s and early 1900s, largely as a reaction to the widespread romanticism and idealism in the field then. Positivists believed that sociology should be based on empirical data and that any claims made about society or human behavior should be based on evidence.
Positivists believed that sociology should be based on empirical data and that any claims made about society or human behavior should be based on evidence.
Some of the most prominent positivists in sociology include Émile Durkheim, Auguste Comte, and Max Weber. Durkheim, in particular, is considered one of the founders of the positivist movement in sociology. He believed that sociology should focus on studying society and the social sciences, and he is particularly famous for his work on social division and stratification. Comte believed that positivism could be used to help reform society and is best known for his work on the philosophy of science. Weber is perhaps the most well-known positivist in sociology, and his work on the sociology of religion is particularly well-known.
While positivism is still a dominant perspective in sociology, several scholars have developed alternative perspectives based on positivism but critiquing some of its key assumptions. These include postpositivism and critical positivism.