Can Sociology Be Value-Free?

Because sociology is the study of human behavior in society, which is governed by values, in one sense sociology cannot be value-free. The goal of sociologists is to be value-neutral, meaning they do not bring their own prejudices to research.

According to, part of the social facts sociologists study are the values of the society, thus making value-freedom impossible. However, German sociologist and philosopher Max Weber describes the idea of value-free sociology to mean researchers confine value-relevance. Sociologists must be aware of their own prejudices and acknowledge them while researching. They must also avoid incorporating their personal values into the research and the conclusions they draw from it. Sociology teachers should refrain from assigning moral values to the customs and behaviors of another society during instruction.

Nobel Laureate economist, sociologist and politician Gunnar Myrdal posited that total value neutrality is impossible. He stated that, to make sense of research and even form hypotheses, sociologists must utilize their own viewpoints. He proposes sociologists need to be value-frank, meaning they explicitly state their guiding viewpoints from the outset of their research.

Students and readers, too, must be aware of their own value biases concerning societal issues. Ultimately, a society should be estimated according to its own value system, not that of researchers or bystanders. Sociological research is meant to be viewed as one for of a truth, not as a singular fact.