Value Neutrality: Explained with Examples

The concept of value-neutrality was proposed by Max Weber. It refers to the duty and responsibility of the social researcher to overcome his personal biases while conducting any research. It aims to separate fact and emotion and stigmatize people less. It is not only important in sociology but outlines the basic ethics of many disciplines.

An example of it is as follows: a teacher is asked by the principal to provide a report of how well the students had performed in the class tests. On the basis of that report, the principal would provide necessary resources to those children including books, copies, or stationeries. If the teacher in order to show his capabilities presents a report where although maximum students had actually failed were shown to be passed with good grades, the students would not get the benefits they deserve from the principal. Again, in the field of medicine, if a doctor lets his emotions and personal biases get hold of him, he might not perform his duties properly.

Value neutrality is of enormous importance to social workers because their contribution towards the knowledge of society and social phenomena immensely affect laws, legislations, people, groups, policies required to be made, social changes that should emerge and so on. According to Max Weber, it is important for sociologists to be value-neutral because otherwise their findings and analysis could provide distorted and manipulated results. They need to remain impartial while conducting the research, and should not omit or deduct any important information from the findings and should present the results without distorting any parts of it. A sociologist needs to keep him/herself away from manipulating the outcomes or findings of the sociological research even if those results contradict with his own views or beliefs.

A sociologist can become value-neutral by being aware of his own values, beliefs, or moral judgements. He should be able to identify the values he held and prevents them from influencing his research, its findings, or conclusions. Being a part of the society, it becomes difficult to not incorporate one’s personal values and moral judgments to the social phenomena. So, most sociologists warn readers to understand how particular social research to some extent might not be entirely value-neutral. The readers are made to see those kinds of outcomes as one of the many possible truths. They believe that while studying certain social phenomena, it becomes difficult to sideline one’s personal values or biases. However, in spite of such difficulties, it must be the prime motive of sociologists to maintain value neutrality as much as possible. They should try to maintain objectivity, but, if that becomes too difficult, their duty is to inform the people of the subjectivity so that the people can interpret the data clearly.

The duty of maintaining value neutrality, however, does not forbid him from having any opinions on the subject matter. It only means that the sociologist should not add or skip any information in order to match the outcome with his opinions or personal beliefs.

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