Assumptions of the positivist approach
The positivist method assumes the following presumptions in terms of sociology. First, like the behavior of matter, human behavior may be measured scientifically. In other words, objective measurement techniques for human behavior may be developed, just as the behavior of matter can be measured by measurements like weight, temperature, and pressure. Measurements of this kind are necessary to understand behavior. The development of theories to explain observed behavior may then occur. The focus on objectively measuring human social behavior pushes positivist researchers to depend increasingly heavily on quantitative approaches.
Second, behavior that can be seen directly is given special attention in the positivist approach to sociology. It contends that non-observable characteristics of behavior, including meanings, emotions, and objectives, are insignificant and may even be deceptive. For instance, data from police records may be used to monitor and quantify crime in a specific community. In other words, measuring the number of various crime forms or the crime rate in a particular community is possible. Therefore, the observable facts of a crime constitute accurate data. However, there are several explanations that individuals could provide for their unlawful behavior. Due to the very subjective character of these explanations, neither their direct observation nor their integrity can be confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, while one individual would claim that he committed the crime to get the money, he required for medical care, another might defend their actions by citing social justice, and so on.
As was already established, positivists sought to emulate the natural sciences in shaping sociology into a scientific field. The positivists’ focus on verifiable “facts” stems mainly from their conviction that human behavior can be described as that of matter. Due to the evident lack of meanings and purposes for matter, natural scientists do not investigate them. Since they only respond to outside stimuli, atoms and molecules do not behave in terms of meaning. Therefore, the matter will respond if heat, an external stimulus, is introduced. A natural scientist’s responsibility is to watch, measure, and then explain that response.
Similarly, the positivist theory of human behavior follows the same reasoning. People respond to outside stimuli, and this response may be used to explain behavior. People thus commit crimes in reaction to societal cues, such as injustice, poverty, or a lack of effective law and order. Most meanings and goals people give to their behavior and conduct are unimportant.
As a result, it has often been asserted that sociology’s structural theory, also known as systems theory, has a positivist stance. The techniques and presumptions of the natural sciences are ideal for studying people if the behavior is seen as a reaction to external stimuli, such as economic pressures or social structure demands. Since it may be claimed that Marxism views human behavior as a response to the stimulant of the economic infrastructure, it has often been considered a positivist philosophy. Similar perspectives have been held about functionalism. The social system’s functional requirements might be considered as the cause of members of society’s behavior. These perspectives on structural or systems theory greatly oversimplify complicated topics.