C. Wright Mills used the term “abstracted empiricism” in 1959 to describe social survey research methods that employ quantitative methods but pay little attention to the theoretical techniques in sociology and make only marginal contributions to sociological knowledge.
Abstracted empiricism arises from the aim of some research scientists to replicate the natural sciences.
The importance of social structure is understated, and the importance of demographic characteristics is overstated, which hinders the research from taking a sociological point of view. The internal validity of quantitative methodology is too dominating, and it is presumed that it cannot be quantified.
This phrase refers to gathering empirical data for its own purpose without needing a theory to explain it. According to C. Wright Mills, sociology is divided between “abstracted empiricism” and “grand theory.”
In “Sociological Imagination,” C. W. Mills introduced the term “abstracted empiricism” to describe the activity of certain sociologists who treat quantitative research methods as an imminent factor and associate empiricism with science.
Although Mills acknowledges the value of data gathering in the sociological study, he is confident that it is not enough for sociological interpretation. According to Mills, such data are given sociological significance by comparing historical analyses and theoretical categories, and only under such conditions can a social structure be established. In the writings of R. Bannister, the historical development of the origins of abstract empiricism is described.
When statistics are allowed to operate independently in the absence of any value-relevant stakes in the results, it may result in disregarding values completely and produce trivial or abstracted empiricism Demographers investigating fertility rates, for instance, which might undoubtedly be a morally significant problem, may get mired in disagreements involving minute intricacies of statistical methodology.