No theory forbids me to say "Ah!" or "Ugh!", but it forbids me the bogus theorization of my "Ah!" and "Ugh!" - the value judgments. - Theodor Julius Geiger (1960)

Theory and Practice

Beck, U. (1974), Objektivität und Normativität/Die Theorie-Praxis-Debatte in der modernen deutschen und amerikanischen Soziologie, Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag.


Ulrich Beck discusses the relationship between objectivity and normativity in sociology, particularly focusing on the theory-practice debate. He argues that the interplay between value orientation and the system of statements in social sciences cannot be adequately analyzed concerning the criterion of value neutrality. The defense of value neutrality solely rests on refuting the idea that all researchers, including sociologists, must explicitly express value judgments in their work.


Normativity-technological monism and pluralism

Both the rejection and defense of value neutrality assume a single approach to normative consequences in sociological research. Beck proposes a more realistic perspective, advocating for normativity-technological pluralism. This implies that making value judgments is just one aspect of the research process, alongside other decisions like choosing research topics, methods, and variable selection. Thus, value judgments can serve different political purposes and may not necessarily influence outcomes directly.

The Role of Value Judgments and Factual Statements in Sociological Research

Beck also explores the effectiveness of value judgments and factual statements in guiding sociological research. He argues that value judgments made by sociologists may not always lead to the desired practical outcomes, while factual statements, when appropriately used, can have a more significant impact on influencing decision-making in political and economic institutions.

Beck describes the complex relationship between ethics, ideology criticism, and the issue of normativity in sociology. Beck contends that value judgments guiding the research process may not manifest as explicit value statements but can still play a role in shaping research projects and approaches. Ethical and metaethical discussions about the rationality of value judgments become less relevant when considering this context.

Value Basis: Meta-scientific Assumption and its Impact on Research Outcomes

Beck addresses the term "value basis" in sociology, and suggests that it functions as a meta-scientific assumption rather than a logical premise. While it serves as a normative foundation, it does not necessarily require explicit prescription within social science investigations. Beck emphasizes that the value basis for research is not derived from divine inspiration but is taken from the social object domain itself. The selection of value perspectives is influenced by the researcher's normative self-understanding and the interests of various powerful groups related to the social relations being studied.

The interplay of value basis, theoretical concepts, and empirical methods leads to different research interests and potential social consequences. Beck describes the interdependence of subjective, thematic, subtheoretical, and epistemological value bases, and their role in shaping the research process and potential outcomes. He argues that the combination of these value components can affect the selection and interpretation of research questions and findings.

Dynamic Interaction between Social Interests and Normative Effects

Social interests not only shape the conditions and context of sociological research but also influence the potential uses and consequences of research results. There is a dynamic interaction between the researcher's subjective value basis, the chosen thematic perspectives, and the epistemological framework, all of which contribute to the generation of normative effects in sociological research.


So, the problem of normativity and objectivity in sociology is not simply a matter of metaethics but rather a matter of practical choices and decisions within the research process. The relationship between value orientation and the system of statements in sociology is multifaceted and can have various implications for the research outcomes and their practical implications. Recognizing and understanding the interplay of value perspectives, theoretical concepts, and empirical methods is essential for social scientists to produce meaningful and reliable research results. One needs to be transparent and to critically reflect on the role of values in research. A broader audience needs to be involved in social science discussions to avoid uncritical assumptions and bridge the gap between researchers and society.