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Interpretive Methodology - Essay Example

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The interpretive method of understanding social life is one based upon what Herbert Blumer has termed "symbolic interactionism" (Blumer, 1986). Essentially developed from the ideas of American pragmatism, this type of interpretive methodology suggests, as Herbert Mead showed, that people are both what might be termed social products but also that they exhibit unique personal and creative qualities…
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Interpretive Methodology

Download file to see previous pages... Moreover, there are sciences to which eternal youth is granted, and the historical disciplines are among them--all those to which the eternally onward flowing stream of culture perpetually brings new problems. At the very heart of their task lies not only the transciency of all ideal types but also at the same time the inevitability of new ones....The history of the social sciences is and remains a continuous process passing from the attempt to order reality analytically through the construction of concepts--the dissolution of the analytical constructs so constructed through the expansion and shift of the scientific horizon--and the reformulation anew of concepts on the foundations thus transformed . .
The major methodology adopted social interactionists is the qualitative approach in which a researcher will use participant observation in order to analyse both social interaction and the unique individual characteristics. The observer needs to use three basic principles in order to understand the people that he is studying:
The strength of this process is that both the social and individual elements of human behaviour/interaction are considered - and this is an approach that makes sense on an instinctual and anecdotal basis. The vital dynamic for the researcher to contemplate is that "by interpreting or defining each other's actions instead of merely reaction to each other's actions . . . their response is not made directly to the actions of one another but instead is based on the meaning which is they attach to such actions" (Blumer, 1962).
The overarching paradigm behind this approach was that laid out by Max Weber in his groundbreaking work (Weber, 1978). Weber suggested that the rise of positivistic sciences to the point at which all analysis, whether of natural or human occurrences was perceived as being suitable for the scientific method. The famous image that he uses for this pure positivism is that it places human beings within an "iron cage" (Weber, 1978). Weber argues that this iron cage has resulted from the attempt to over-rationalize the world and thus demystify it. The method of evaluating human behaviour based upon pure rationality depends upon an attempt to explain everything, to make all transparent, rather than admitting that many observations are impossible to fit within a neat, rationalistic viewpoint. Weber suggests that it is only through understanding the true complexity of social behaviour - rather than attempting to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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