Evaluating Interests in Social Science: Beyond Objectivist Evaluation and the Non-judgemental Stance

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Abstract

This article attempts to move debates about interests beyond the impasse between proponents of objective evaluation and defenders of a non-judgemental approach to lay actors’ interests. It develops an evaluative approach to actors’ understandings of their interests but rejects ideas of ‘real’ or ‘objective’ interests in favour of an engagement with the limitations of actors’ understandings from within their own frameworks. These ideas are developed through a sympathetic but critical engagement with Lukes’ account of interests in Power: A Radical View. Issues explored include the viability of the divide between ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ interests, the notion of ‘contradictory interests’ and the relation between social scientific and agential accounts. Following Holmwood, I argue that social scientific evaluations are only justified when they identify limitations and problems in actors’ understandings of their interests and show how these are avoided in social scientific interest accounts.

© 2012 BSA Publications Ltd [2002]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)664-679
JournalSociology
Volume46
Issue number4
Early online date18 Apr 2012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012

Keywords

  • criticism
  • Holmwood
  • interests
  • justification
  • Lukes
  • problems
  • real interests

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