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THE MARXIST CONCEPTION OF THE SOCIOLOGICAL METHOD
A significant feature of the discussion now underway on a global scale on the prerequisites, character and functions of sociology, all points that have for some time predominated in the debates of world sociological congresses as well as in sociological journals, is a shift away from narrow sociological empirism, rooted in neopositivism and in line with that efforts to form sociology as a unified, internally structured theoretical system, capable of assuming an effective role in the process of the transformation of contemporary society. In this context, while accenting the specificity of the Marxist conception of sociology, it is evident that the questions relating to the sociological method cannot be posed in isolation of these of sociological theory.
Unity of theory and method
One of the characteristic traits of the empirical analytic conception of sociology, that had for so long predominated, is the underestimation of the significance that specific sociological theory has for working out sociological method. In accord with the gnoseological premises of positivism, empirical sociology refuses to respect the specific nature of the social reality and claims that it is capable of construing a universal method of research that can be applied to the processing of any empirical data. In practice this method leads to a mechanical transposition of methodological postulates from other notably the natural sciences, to sociology. In this way the methodological postulates of the theories of the natural sciences are absolutised and asserted as a universal metamethod. This isolated universal metamethod, ranking above theory, looses its essential character of a tool
accumulated by empirical research. thus confined and restricted by metamethodological postulates. is incapable of adequately encompassing the problems posed by social reality and consequently_also the interest motivation of sociological knowledge. which may not transcend the level of empirical data. This then means that the main guarantee that the working hypotheses are scientific ones are the postulates of the metamethod conceived a priori.~ Kalc~b in the process of the cognition and transformation of society. in the final analysis becomes an obstacle to the all-round advance of sociology as a science. dictates the choice of scientific problems. Besides the deductive system of formally logical rules for the formulation of hypotheses. It is a paradox that even some conceptions of Marxist sociology have arrived at an analogy of the empiristic conclusions drawn in terms of the isolation of method and theory. The social function of empirically conceived sociology is in the essence confined to the area of socio-techniques. The empirical conception of theory necessarily also reduces to the minimum the significance of theoretical working hypotheses as the points of departure for empirical research. it must resign the attempt to work out a general theory. rational social manipulation. Here the forming of a theoretical system of sociology is confined to the a priori postulates of the universal metamethod and is but the expression and inductive generalisation of empirical data. becomes the criterion of scientific cognition and in spite of the partial positive socio-technical results it produces. is in the essence limited by a system of procedures and techniques used in empirical research. but on that of pragmatically conceived effectiveness. surpassing the inductive generalisation of empirical data and thereby also that of scientific prediction of social development. And even social prognosis is then confined within these sociotechnical limits and sociology becomes a mere auxiliary tool of voluntary. to the problems of choosing the proper means to optionally set ends.l~filo. Sociology. the empirico-analytic method merely requires that the premises that serve as the points of departure be selected in such a way as to be empirically meaningful. In this positivist conception. in fact those who have asserted that the efforts to create a specific theory of sociology harbour the dangers of the . For empirically orientated sociology the whole problem of the unity of theory and method is posed in an extremely restricted way. Hence empirical sociology does not pose the problem of truth as the problem of the adequacy of the method to theory and of theory to social reality in terms of the criteria of social practice. theory.
Theories of the middle range. a sort of "bridging of the gap" between now and the future inductive construction of such a theory. Nor is it due to chance that this variant of the Marxist conception of sociology involves a nihilistic attitude of simple negation in relation to the theoretical conceptions of non-Marxist sociology on the one hand and an entirely uncritical attitude as to the possibility of mechanically incorporating the partial methodologies. In both cases the function of sociology is in the essence reduced to sociotechniques and scientific prediction on the plans of social development is abandoned. Thus proceeding from entirely different ideological positions. A compromise between the narrow empirical approach and the advocates of the conception of a general sociological theory in contemporary sociology is provided by Merton's "theory of the middle range". what empiricist sociology and these tendencies towards reducing general sociology to historical materialism have in common. that forgoes the question of the interdependence of and connection between these theories and thereby also the question of the general method of sociology. Irrespective of subjective motivation and the fundamental difference in ideological premises. are to become a transition. Similarly as in the empiricist conception this type of Marxist conception also proceeds from the assumption that sociological method is independent of theory. In Merton's conception the actual sociological theory thus has become a mosaique of theories of the middle range. and thereby also of the subject of investigation. he does not consider that the sociology of our time has matured to form such a theory. that there can exist a specific partial methodology and the relevant procedures and techniques in the absence of a relevant specific theory. This variant of the bearing of theory on empiria also has its analogy . procedures and techniques and that thereby these two conceptions arrive at a premise. but merely as a partial methodology. procedures and techniques of nonMarxist sociology on the other.The marxist conception oJ the sociological method infiltration of bourgeois theory. is that both these conceptions do not characterise sociology as a specific subject matter and a specific theory. Although Merton in no way refutes the need for general theory. applying to individual delimited aspects of society. delimited set of data. completely untenable from the Marxist point of view. these conceptions arrive at the same nihilist conclusions as to specific sociological theory. These are conceptions that identify Marxist sociological theory with historical materialism and characterise the specificity of sociology as a science merely in terms of the method of specific sociological researches.
While one section of the Marxist critics of the conception of sociology as a theoretically and methodologically independent science view the construction of special sociological disciplines only a manifestation of the empiricistic disintegration of sociology and of the supplanting of a general. at the same time conceiving action as a specific form of the movement of society. The Marxist critical conception of the theory of the middle range can successfully take up Mill's and Horowitz's criticism in this respect. but should at the same time attempt the positive elaboration of methods of the comprehensive research of the global societies in the spirit and tradition of authentic Marxism. ideologically significant theory of society by a sum of ideologically neutral special disciplines. that would be relevant as the prerequisite to any purposeful practical intervention in the sphere of social reality. stress Parson's attempt to find general sociological theory on general theory of action.Milo~ Kalhb in any discussion of the Marxist conception of sociology. then Talcott Parson's attempt may from the scientific point of view be qualified as a one-sided one in its very conception of social reality and ideologically as conservatives. in that they are not structured and further in that this presents no methodological solution as to the research of the interplay of individual spheres of the social process real historical and social units in any coherent way. that 8 . A serious and highly significant attempt to construct a general sociological theory and the methods arising therefrom in the area of non-Marxist sociology is Talcott Parson's conception. is one of importance. of social movements that has such significance for an understanding of the trends of contemporary society and that has been the traditional domain of Marxism. the other group has tried to define the sphere of sociology precisely as the sphere of the theory of the middle range. Inasfar as our emphasis goes to the forming of a general theory of the social system as an attempt at a general sociological theory of society. however. The shortcomings of this conception of the bearing of theory on empiria and vice versa in terms of methodology resides on the one hand in the absence of any correlation between the methodological procedures at different planes of the general. which in actual fact eliminates precisely that part of sociology. which in this conception too is the only one to fulfill the function of a general theory of society. is here supplanted by the study of isolated limited spheres of the social process. If we. differing from historical materialism. of the global societies. Any coherent research of social systems. inspired also by differently mediated Marxist influences. then we cannot deny that this attempt.
the aspects of system and thereby the general method of sociology only to functional analysis. but it is not possible to refute the postulate of the forming of such a general theory and method. but if it is interpreted and understood in all its essential dimensions poses specific requirements both as to the forming of sociological theory and of Marxist sociological methodology. that in this conception the concrete totality of society is reduced only to one of its aspects. The postulate of the unity of theory and empiria. cannot in terms of the discussion on the conception of sociology as a science. A critical analysis may be made from Marxist positions of the concrete forms that Parson's attempt to construe a conception of the general theory and method of sociology has assumed. if at the same time we were to eliminate from the competence of these procedures precisely those probiems that are the most urgent. formally logical elaboration of the immanent coherence and purity of the individual existing methodological procedures. The point is therefore not merely to determine the demarcation lines and the sociometric spheres of the individual methodological procedures . description and classification they provide. The Marxist critics of Parson's conception of theory cannot run along the lines of the empiristic argumentation. Nor can our final aim be the metamethodological. that attacks the very intention of creating a complete theory but it should critically point out that in Parson's theory is predominantly reduced only to categorial analysis. Hence. be considered a formal postulate. Marxism cannot at the same time reject his tendency to form a general theory of sociology and a method in terms of the general theory of action. that has become a global one. It is not the expression of any opposition programme against the one-sidedness of speculative dogmatism and flat empiricism. characteristic for the formation of Marxist sociology.The marxist conception of the sociological method proffers inspiration for any further serious efforts to build up the edifice of the general theory of sociology. but nevertheless only partial aspect of social reality. most vital as they are posed by social practice in a constant process of change. What is at stake in the domain of methodology is no longer merely to demonstrate that the procedures and techniques of empirical sociological research are applicable also to the individual aspects of socialist society and that from the sociotechnical point of view such research serves a useful purpose. Parson's theory become general only by dint of making absolute a significant. making them more exact as to the information. while from a Marxist point of view Parson's attempt may be considered a one-sided one. founded on an absolutisation of the system aspects of social reality.
taking into account the existing interests of cognition arising from the inner conflicts of social reality as practice. but also their inter-relationship and their gnoseological value. and that the whole discussion is moreover strongly influenced by the neo-Kantian conception of the methodological antinomy 1 J6RGEN HABERMAS. the point then is to integrate these partial procedures adequately within the context of the over-all process of the cognition of social reality. 2. as they have evolved in terms of different mutually inter-linked and across-sectioned planes of the general and the comprehensive.Milo~ Kaldb taken in isolation. that would integrate the partial methodological procedures. 2. Frankfurt a/M. it is necessary to construct an open model of the Marxist sociological method as an internally differentiated system.. The theory as an open system of knowledge. 1964. but at the same time becomes the source of alternative working hypotheses. In this sense solutions must be found as to the general question of sociological method. Habermas and Albert 1 we can note from the Marxist position that in this confrontation the dialectic method is asserted primarily in its neo-Hegelian form. in < < KiSlner Zeitschrift f. in a unity of the synchronous and dischronous aspects. The point is then to renew the instrumentality of the method. organising the individual phases of the concrete process of research and making for the adequate incorporation of partial findings within theory as a whole. it cannot be constructed in the absence of a corresponding theoretical system summarizing and generalising the knowledge we have so far of social reality. Systemologieal conceptions of social reality In any analysis of the existing critiques of narrow empirism. if it is to be dialectically adequate to objective reality. for instance between Popper and Adorno. n. in relation to the process of cognition and re-shaping of society. which is important not only in terms of the development of theory.Analytische Wissenscha]tstheorie und Dialektik. HANSALBERT. both as it has appeared in the discussions between the protagonists of the analytical and the dialectic method. but also in terms of practice. If such a model is to transcend the postulate of formal coherence and pragmatic efficacy. Zeugnisse.Der Mythos der totaIen Vernunft. determines not only the mutual relations and limits of the individual methodological procedures. Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie >>. 1963. without in any way being less demanding scientifically. 10 .
a system of interaction. but rather spans the gaps with metaphorical images. by admitting the real incon11 . The concept of society as a deterministic system has historically been asserted primarily in the mechanistic conceptions. in its simplest form. While one may feel appreciation at reading a number of the critical invectives addressed to one-sided empirism.The marxist conception o] the sociological method of the nomothetic and idiographic sciences.e. This signifies that the real system is determined by the character of the elements and the nature of their inter-relationship. The concept of the system. The structure of an object conceived along these lines may be explored by means of a set of transformations. be one of mere negation. One of the principal objects of the dialectical critique of the analytical method is the initial conception of the system itself. In terms of the law of unambiguity a mechanically determined system is defined if we have found the variables that unambiguously determine the transformation of values within the system. but in terms of a critical interpretation of one-sided views and judgments and unjustified absolutisation rather the integration of all evidently positive elements within the over-all conception of the sociological method. in my opinion. reflects the assimilation of elements. where the elements of the system will be dependent variables and the external factors independent variables. each system is at the same time the interaction of elements. With respect to real objects. is in this context called the structure of the system. One of the types of systems used in sociology is the deterministic system.e. that are at the focus of attention of sociology. one cannot but agree with Albert. to postulate the system as the sole object of sociological research. This critique is valid insofar as it is aimed against tendencies to substitute the social reality by the concept of the system. i. its network of relationships. when he affirms that Habermas' dialectic conception does not resolve the unsolved problems. This in the essence mechanistic model is modified as soon as we admit the fact that the value of one and the same independent variable is equated by several values of dependent variables. i. The mechanistic-deterministic system may be defined as a complex dependent function of the factors external to the system. The way in which the elements connect within the system. The deterministic system in its general form is defined as a set of variables that in their relationship determine a class of unambiguous and closed transformations. The Marxist standpoint vis-a-vis the analytical method in sociology cannot.
factors are sought that would serve to explain a familiar process. we cannot reduce society as a whole to a mechanistic system. In an elementary sense at the level of formal analysis. but solely by a whole system of such systems. that are the ground for the explication of deterministic systems. Applied as a partial method within the wider context of the dialectic method. Yet the mechanic devices of the sum of vectors cannot serve for any all-encompassing interpretation of the interaction of deterministic systems. with goal-directed behaviour. as is applied in sociological functionalism. Therefore. Its limitations reside in that it abstracts from the relationship of the elements and the whole within the social structure. A typical functionalist analysis. to a specific range of phenomena. since such interference may lead to a system of new quality. 12 . bound up together by different inter-relations and interferences. does not however proceed from the deterministic conception of the system but from the autoregulative type of system. the theory of factors and factor analysis does. Such criticism is fully justified insofar as the theory of factors and factor analysis were to lay claim to becoming general method adequate to the analysis of social reality and insofar as it were to lead to the reduction of society as a whole to a mechanistic deterministic system. Functionalism constitutes a relatively independent and yet at the same time contradictory chapter in the development of the analytic method. or in the event of factor analysis. In this sense the term function is used in all postulates of the type: x is the function of y. that it primarily investigates the external conditioning of the systematically conceived object. while we readily recognize that the application of deterministic models of the system to society holds in part. the concept of function serves to express the connectives of the deterministic system. thus relegating the automotion of the social structure to the background and neglects the problem of the inner connection and interrelation of systems within the social structure as a whole. have its relative justification. that can be conceived as mechanic units. The sociological theory of factors is founded on the conception of mechanic deterministic systems.Milo~ Kal~b sistency of the dependence of the elements within the system. however. that is then expressed in terms of a probabilistic relationship. Criticism from positions of the dialectic method have been levelled at the theory of factors as a manifestation of mechanicism. Nor can the social process in all its complexity be encompassed by a single deterministic system. A specific social process is interpreted as the outgrowth of familiar factors.
functional analysis also is capable of playing a complementary role. A somewhat one-sided reaction to the lacunae of functionalism may be found in the contemporary conflictualistic conception. The point here then is not any relationship between the element and the system but their over-all order within the system. of the dialectically conceived sociological method. In its classical formulation. represented notably by Malinowski and Radcliffe Brown. and that functional analysis can. besides the theory of factors and factor analysis. however. one cannot concur in the tendency to conceive power relations as an independent variable in the analysis of the social system and thereby supplanting a one-sided economism for a just as one-sided politicism. it absolutizes the eufunctionality of all the elements in relation to the system. merely be a partial device. a specific orientation of the element towards effect. therefore. The Marxist conception proceeds primarily from the premise that society cannot be reduced to a system with goal-directed behaviour. that emphasizes the objective aspect of functions and distinguishes the functional relations as eufunctional and dysfunctional thereby making a considerable step in the direction of a dialectical interpretation. constitutes a model that absolutizes the conception of society as a goaldirected system and its static balance.The marxis! conception of the sociological method This signifies that attention focuses on the relationship of these elements and the whole of the system. it at the same time. aspect. whose best-known representative is R. that the 13 . isolates the functional relations in the over-all network of social relationships and reduces all social relationships to functional ones. in grasping real aspects of the social process. Even Parson's functionalist conception bears traces of these negative. Dahrendoff. Indubitably. possibly on the dependence of the interrelation of the elements and the dependence of the system on the interrelationship of its elements. A reaction to some of these one-sided aspects of the classical functionalistic conception is Merton's interpretation of functional analysis. in terms of the goal-state of the system. The Marxist conception of functional analysis is further predicated on the assumption that it is not possible to make any one-sided interpretation of the elements differentiated from the whole of the system. While Dahrendorf's conception rightly emphasizes the significance of contradictory relations between the elements for the development of the system. and in their political consequences conservative traits. Functional analysis is not inseparably bound up with the functionalist conception and after adequate reinterpretation has its full justification even in the context of the dialectic method.
Structuralist analysis in this analytic conception hence confines itself to analysing the networks of relationships of the system. and inasfar as social reality is conceived as the "system of systems". Stmcturalism in the essence reduces social reality to a system of relationships. as far as this is possible. then any dysfunction may not be evaluated as a pathological phenomenon. so conceived. A special case of inquiry into the relations between systems is research of the isomorphism of systems. If it is not possible to assume that the goalstate of the system is an undifferentiated and static independent variable. emanating from a systemological approach. abstracts from the factors that condition it from the outside. Besides. In the dialectic frame we cannot conceive a system with goal-directed behaviour as a system characterized by static balance. where it can also have a different functional significance. An instance of structural analysis. i. While the theory of factors and factor analysis primarily explored the dependency of the connections between the elements of the system on external conditions. The stmcturalist interpretations of society as a system of relation14 . to exploring the network of relationships between these different systems.e. Thereby Marxism overcomes the one-sidedness of both the functionalist and the conflictualist conceptions. each element is inevitably functionally ordered within a series of different systems. and that the inner connection between them is an internal source of the automotion of the structure as a whole. it abstracts from the qualitative aspects of both elements and system. If we refuse to absolutize the postulate of any static balance of the social system. the stmcturalist type of analysis focuses primarily on the character of the inner connection of the elements within the system and. dysfunctions and afunctions are in addition to eufunctions an essential expression of the internal differentiation and the contradictions within the system. The third type of analytic conception. but as a system of dynamic balance. is stmcturalism. capable of changing its goal states. who departs from the assumption that the comprehensive social process may be interpreted as an ordered process of the mutual inter-change of elements.Milo~ KaI~b elements represent substructures with their own automotion. but a difference must be drawn between dysfunctions that threaten the very existence of society and dysfunctions that are a manifestation of progressive developments and change within the system. is the sociological conception of Levi-Strauss. if the social system constitutes "a system of systems". The analytic conception of structure is predicated on an elementary conception of structure as the way in which the elements of the system are inter-related.
whose correlation and interaction in the essence determines the automotion of the structure as a whole. The dialectic conception of the structural :method The theory of factors. always in theory allow us to construe an infinite number of objects for each system. of course. It is at 15 . That is why the several dimensions of the object. based on system theory. Hence it assumes the character of a model of concrete totality. the network of relationships.The marxist conception o[ the sociological method ships may be bound up with deterministic or functionalistic interpretations. what is typical for the system is that it is at all times based on a determinate range of variables. In terms of the theory of the system. 3. conjointly with factor analysis. which. but embraces also the qualitative determination of the dements and the whole. confine itself to this aspect only. narrowly confined to relationships only. but qualitatively determinate automotive substructures. is not capable of encompassing all the dimensions of structure. The systemological approach is of necessity a partial one. The dialectical conception holds that the conception that is meaningful in this respect is one that interprets the social system in terms of three variables: the whole. and dialectic analysis of social reality cannot. After all. functional analysis and structural analysis represent the elementary types of the analytic method. In the Marxist conception structure is not reduced to the structure of formal relationships. Dialectic analysis emanating from the Marxist conception of structure constitutes a superior plane of complexity of synchronous analysis. Here structural analysis looses all aspects of formal effect. it would be possible to characterize structure as system analysed in terms of three substantive variables: the whole. At the plane of relationships it might prove possible to define structure on the one hand in terms of the relations between the elements and on the other by the relations between the whole and the elements. Thus in the dialectic conception the elements do not constitute passive atoms of the system. yet the inner connection of the systems need not in all cases have a systemic nature. Yet even in terms of the narrow synchronous aspect the systemological approach does not encompass all relevant dimensions of social reality. therefore. the relationship structure and the elements. and the elements.
3) An interpretation of the inner correspondences between these forms. that may at first sight appear as an a priori construction s. 1873. Or/ some Aspects of the Marxist Conception of Sociological Theory. are complementary. 4) An explication of the real motion by means of which the life of the material achieves an ideal image. 3 MARX. When in the postscript to the second edition of the Capital Marx indicates the methodological procedures he used. "the detailed knowledge of the material" primarily implies the accumulation of relevant information. The last point is usually interpreted as a matter of pedagogics. 1967. with a view to a rational interpretation of the laws governing the operation of social structure. London. The dialectic conception of structure thus not only connects the relationship aspect with the qualitative aspect. The motion that is characteristic of the relative permanence of the structure is conceived not only on the phenomenal plane of actual processes. The Marxist dialectic theory of structure. to the extent that these have been applied. If empirical data are to be relevant. of the individual types of the analytic method. that characterises the laws of operation of the structure. however. 1. Postscript to Second Edition o~ the Capital. January 24th. 2) Analysis of the different forms of its development. but also on the plane of the existential substance. since it permits of reinterpretation and of the integration. i. the resarch concern must be clearly stated and along with it. in "Sociologicky Casopis'. 8TRMISKA. in fact. The first phase. The method of Marx's Capital will serve very well to characterize dialectically conceived structural analysis. but also the aspect of the substance and of the phenomenon. in terms of the existing degree that 2 For a more detailed study of the substantive aspects of social structure see: KAL~B. to different degrees and proportions. At a higher level of generalisation it then allows us to demystify the traditional causal and teleological methods. 16 . it constitutes precisely that plane of the general method at which Marxism transcends the limitations of the analytic-empirical method. so reinterpreted.2~lilo~Kal~b the same time assumed that the quality of the whole of the structure in turn determines the quality and correlation of the elements. he divides them into four phases: 1) Detailed knowledge of the material. and to demonstrate that these two methods.e. and here the present study permits only of a rough outline 2 constitutes an important device of structural analysis in the dialectical conception. n.
essentially. Only the fourth phase represents the generally theoretical level that encompasses the structure of the object and is relevant to the formulation of the general method. Hence instead of real manipulation of the object we will have imaginary manipulation. that corresponds to the working hypothesis. A specific plane. with differently set limit conditions. even on the plane of so-called flat empirism reaches this phase of determining the empirical regularities. that of "the analysis of the different forms of the materials' development" at the level of structural analysis represents the transmission of the empirical data into a rational construction by means of manipulation of the object of the research.e. with precisely defined variables. the behaviour of the object is observed and controlled in an isolated field. The explication of the different forms of the behaviour of the object then is derived from algorithms. under circumstances that may be reproduced by any subject and that allow intersubjectively valid conclusions. Thus. This is. The second phase. Every empirico-analytic method. Marx's thesis as to the need of substituting an abstraction for the experiment applies.The marxist conception o] the socioIogical method the development of theory has achieved. permitting their uniform interpretation. that goes beyond the level of the empirico-analytic method and of immediate empirical verification is the fourth phase. It is only at this level that we are entitled to speak of the reproduction of the concrete in thought. i. a deductive rational reconstruction of the algorithms from axiomatic phrases. of the transformation of the "sensate concrete" into the "mentally concrete". It is only here that we come to the completion of the procedure that Marx characterises as one going from concretely sensual determination to abstract determination. The third phase residing in the interpretation of the inner correspondence of the development of the material in the essence constitutes an explication of interference and interaction in the algorithms discovered in the second phase. a logically coherent and empirically meaningful hypothesis must be construed. This degree then includes the collection of factual data in accordance with the research plan. Since in the social sciences the possibility of the experiment is always restricted and in most cases even excluded. The so-called theories of the middle-range reach this level as the limit of empirically directly or indirectly verifiable laws. In the natural sciences such manipulation may be effected by means of an experiment. And even in this phase the research will produce sociotechnical condusions. 17 .
A general method based on a general theory of the object thus construed can precisely determine the location of partial methods. procedures and techniques in the over-all research process and thereby prevent their being unjustifiedly absolutised or used incompetently. Besides. within which reality is cut to fit the Procrustean bed. that Habermas.e. for as long as they do not become a universal explicative schema. in its inner differentiation and abstracts from the continual aspect. may not be identified with the Marxist term of concrete totality. similarly as respect of the structural dimension is the element that distinguishes the Marxist dialectic conception from neo-Hegelian conceptions that reduce social movement to development and social laws to the historical laws of development 4. it specifies the movement of social reality only in terms of functions. by means of their explicative potential.Milog Kaldb The deductive procedure of the construction of the theoretical system in this fourth phase of structural analysis may be verified on the one hand by means of a confrontation with the results of historical analysis of the object and on the other by the validity of the axioms for any range of phenomena of the area investigated. 4. its development as the second substantive aspect of social movement. qualitative conception. The verified axioms o f the general theory will remain methodologically significant only insofar as they are continually corrected by empiria. while the structural aspect in the dialectic conception is not a static one. also implies the historical dimension of social reality and thereby the changes in the social structure. even in its dialectic. however. It is precisely by means of respecting this historical dimension that the dialectic conception of method differs substantially from the analytical conception. the recurrent movement by means of which the structure reproduces its existence at a given qualitative level and hence only specifies the changes in the structure. orion between the analytic and dialectic conception of method. 4 The third essential dimension of concrete totality. The concept of structure encompasses social reality primarily in its discontinuity. is a dimension that 18 . i.e. The unity of the structural and historical method The concept of structure. for instance. The term concrete totality. i. that we shall not deal with in this context. qualifies as the dialectic antipode of the system. does not specify diffuse. non-structured units. but the consistent respect of which again allows us to draw a distin.
In his polemics with Popper. but at the same time himself reduces the validity of the structural laws only to isolated sectors of stationary "connectives" that are recurrent and emphasises that social systems that are exposed to the inter-play and interdependencies of live history do not belong to the systems with a recurrent course. while he considers the historic sciences as idiographic in the essence. Recognition of the is in the essence a gnoseological one. This is at the same time an indication of the degree to which there is as yet no clarity as to principle on the point of relative stability and change as to the necessary objective aspects of any real process. 19 . Here it is primarily the semantic aspects of theory and method that come to the fore. K. What is more both these types of method are applied both to nature and to society. a sociologist. the structuralist and the historic. whether in nature or in society. i. Habermas does. Popper only recognizes as theoretical the sciences that generalise. The unity of these two moments in no way excludes the existence of two methods. protest this restrictive conception of law and defends the existence of historical laws. Popper as an advocate of the analytic method denies the possibility of the existence of laws of history. then. The views advanced by some in the present discussions on the analytic and the dialectic method asserting that the structural method applies solely to the natural sciences and the historic method exclusively to the social sciences is but a relic of neo-Kantism. R. But the unity of the two aspects is asserted in a specific mode within each of the two types.The marxist conception o/ the sociological method The unity of the structural and historical moment in the dialectic method answers two objective aspects of the movement of objective reality: that of function and development. e. that impinge on both the natural and the social sciences. According to Popper the hypotheses in the generalising sciences are applied to deductively selected laws under voluntarily specified boundary conditions. according to Popper. the historian becomes a theoretician. while in the historical sciences they are applied to these boundary conditions that are then considered the causes of the individual historical events. in other words that the historic sciences reduce the research concern to an interpretation of individual events. the projection of the subject in the process of cognition onto the method and its objective interpretation. it is true. As soon as the research concern shifts away from hypothetically singular sentences. The whole discussion evidently confuses two different planes o[ the differentiation of sciences: the structural and historic plane and the plane of generalisation and individualisation.
In so doing development is at all times conceived as the development of a specific structure. that "the anatomy of man is the key to the anatomy of the ape". The historic method in the Marxist conception must pass through similar phases as the structural method. Historical and structural analysis are inter-dependent. 20 . imply ignoring the unity of the movement of matter in general. The category of "the purpose of history" is in the Marxist conception of development demystified and desubjectivised and is translated into the terms of the problem of the correlation of the individual developmental phases and the whole of the evolutionary connection. have set themselves the task of discovering the laws. In this sense it is possible to characterise the dialectic conception of the historic method as a structural-historic one. Historical analysis of the object facilitates the categorial analysis of the object. i. after all. but of the development of the structure. This signifies that the historical sciences too. for the entire process of the "mental reproduction of the concrete in terms of abstract determination'.e. the one in each case having to take account of the other. does not. makes it easier to distinguish the substance from the phenomenon and provides empirically relevant control for the deductive reconstruction of the algorithm. through that of accumulating information. Structural analysis enables history to avoid making subjective implications as to the tendencies of historical development versus development per se and on the contrary to determine them objectively by means of a comparison of a developmental series of cross-sections of the structure. construing the algorithms up to the deductive reconstruction of algorithms from axiomatic phrases.Milo~ Kal~b qualitative difference of the social and natural form of movement. functioning in a specific way. This aspect primarily imposes limits on the unjustified transpositions in time as to the findings of structural analysis. of course not of the function. to that of the continual and dyscontinual aspects of the qualitative change of structure. Similarly the structural method in its dialectic conception may be ~zharacterised as a historico-structural one. The structural method in its dialectic conception must above all respect the given structure as the product of development so far and as the substratum of future development. Here Marx's thesis that categories reflecting the conditions and the differentiation of the higher stage of social or natural reality allow us to penetrate to the preceding phases applies.
but becomes the object of scientific "analysis" and the results of such analysis are applicable to the working out of conceptions of the orientative variants of practical action. which is also closely related to the over-all conception of the sociological method. This is of essential significance for the Marxist conception of the relationship between science and practice. Marxism has for the first time posed the problem of "the purpose of history" and of "the tendencies of history" on a scientific basis in terms of the unity of the structural and historical laws underlying the movement of society. Dialectic theory that poses the question of the adequacy of method in terms of theory and of theory in terms of objective reality must of necessity also pose the question of the real connection between the problems of social reality and the problems of science. The problem of science and practice By realising the unity of the structural and the historic method in dialectics. It is characteristic of narrow empirism and the dictatorship of metamethodological postulates it has installed. that is why the question of any purposeful social change is reduced to the utilisation of scientific social techniques to assert voluntarily selected goals. or in society. who does not recognize historical laws either in nature. that it is bound up with extreme subjectivism. From the empiricistic. objectivist view-point. it then proves impossible to pose the question of the connection and coincidence of the objective laws of development and of the goals of social action in scientific terms. but to exclude the "practical" interests from the competence of science. With Popper as its spokesman analytic theory formulates the strict requirement that the concerns of cognition be verified to determine whether their motivation is immanently scientific or merely practical. Here this connection is not relegated to the sphere of voluntary subjective decisions. Popper. that refuses the recognize the laws of history. The purpose of this distinction is not to find the connection of these two interests. 21 . Social law in the neopositivist conception is reduced to the law of function and social practice to behaviour.The marxist conception of the sociological method 5. Dialectic theory that stems from the conception of the unity of structural and historic laws and from the conception of the social process as action (encompassing both the element of objective determination and that of subjective creativity). is capable of understanding "the meaning of history" only as a subjective decision to impute a voluntarily chosen meaning to history. of the immanently scientific and practical social interests.
since they are within the sphere of subjective decision-making. and the methodological procedure consists primarily of rules of logic. Through its conception of the general theory of development the dialectic method has created new tools that enable it to derive historically determined principles of human action and shifts the demarcation line of the rationality of decisionmaking to essentially more general and perspective dimensions. The hypotheses relating to the laws of function are empirically verifiable. It is hence possible to speak of the scientific method of action in the context of the dialectic method also on the plane of the historical development of society. Although the empirical verifiability of this deduction is only a mediated one. it rests fully within the sphere of legitimate scientific operations. The rational choice of ends is a possibility only in terms of the aspect.~b Positivism does not dispose of the scientific tools that would enable it to grasp the connection between cognition and evaluation. and therefore fall within the sphere that is determined by the criterion of "rightness". where the ends play the role of the means in view of the voluntarily chosen criterion. but recognising all the time that not even the dialectic method is capable of securing full rationality in the decision-making process and in the choice of the goals of social action. but also historical laws. since it not only extends the methodological tools by adding the element of the rational deduction of algorithms from axiomatic phrases in the sphere of structural analysis. The dialectic method is in harmony with the analytic method insofar as it tries to eliminate any a priori evaluations arising from empiric research and empiric generalisation. The dialectic method.~ Kal. It transcends the narrow horizons of the empiricist conception of theory. 22 . Nevertheless the scientific method of action in the context of the dialectically conceived concrete totality does not confine itself to the plane of sociotechniques only. Hence the rational choice of the means to a voluntarily chosen end is possible. Neither the analytic nor the dialectic method excludes values from the sphere of theory as the object of research or as a component of scientifically conceived method of action. outside this sphere of "rightness". Value judgments on social norms are. but not the rational choice of the ends. proceeding from the unity of the structural and historical method leads to recognition of not only structural.Milo. however. but by doing the same in the sphere of historical analysis.