Department of Methodology and Sociological Theory
The Department, established in 2021, focuses its activities on the analysis of epistemological assumptions and research procedures and on examination of the products of research, i.e., the concepts, claims and theories of socio-cultural processes and structures. The foundation of cognitive action is the conviction that empirical sociology and theoretical sociology should not be held apart. Attention is directed to the universal rules of cognition of social phenomena and to its peculiarities. Sociological methodology and theory are developed in the interdisciplinary setting of the social and cultural sciences.
The Department is a descendent of the line initiated by Stanisław Ossowski, who in 1957 created the Department of Sociology I, which was transformed into the Department of Research Methods in Sociology (head: Klemens Szaniawski) and then, from 1973, into the Department of Sociological Research Methodology (heads: Stefan Nowak 1973-1989; Antoni Sułek 1989-2009; Krzysztof Koseła 2009-2020). The second genetic sequence begins in the Department of Sociology of Culture established in 1966 for Józef Chałasiński and in the later Department of Sociology of Culture headed from 1977 by Antonina Kłoskowska and from 2008 by Elżbieta Hałas.
The Department’s activity draws inspiration from the work of its masters: Stanisław Ossowski and Stefan Nowak, as well as Edmund Mokrzycki, Jakub Karpiński, Julia Sowa and Józef Chałasiński and Antonina Kłoskowska. The Department’s output includes both empirical research, undertaken to create comprehensive diagnoses of Polish society, and theoretical reflection on the dimensions of transformations of global society.
The generation that reached scientific maturity in the 1980s and which responded to the shortcomings of positivist methodology with solutions inspired by the interpretive paradigm played a major part in shaping the current research programme. A distinctive feature of cultural studies is the study of the axiological and semiotic sphere of social phenomena. The culturalist inspiration of the sociological theory and humanist methodology of Florian Znaniecki and the current of symbolic interactionism, as well as classical and new relational sociology, remains significant.
- Sociology is a science, i.e., a rational cognitive enterprise, distinct from common knowledge. It is based on the rules of logic and methodology and associated empirical data. From this follows the need to explore the boundaries separating science from non-science, including the borderline areas of knowledge located between sociology and ideology including religion, politics, or common-sense knowledge. With the conviction that sociology is scientific also comes a reflexive, critical self-limitation: the delimitation of sociologists’ competences in relation to researchers from other disciplines and the position that, while sociological knowledge should be socially useful, it cannot dictate decisions about the arrangement of personal, social, and political life. The goal of sociology is a comprehensive, theoretical understanding of social phenomena, not practical action enabling practitioners of sociology to operate successfully within the various social networks outside of the non-university world.
- In the Department, theoretical reflection is cultivated on various aspects of social and cultural phenomena: on the evolution of value systems, on secularisation processes, on political behaviour, on national and religious identities, on changes in knowledge cultures and scientific paradigms, and on collective and cultural memory, including the trauma of the Holocaust. The study of the relationships between phenomena suggests answers to the question of their causes and the regularities that govern them. Behind the plurality of descriptions and explanations of the complexity of the social world stands sociological theory, understood as a deeper, i.e., abstract structure to understand and explain the regularity of social phenomena.
- The common denominator of the various theoretical approaches represented in the Department is the concept of the person as a rational, causal subject, oriented in his or her actions towards interests and values shaped in a historical and relational context, and thus using a particularistic perspective to view reality. While theoretical inquiry can be cultivated as an autonomous field of abstract thought, theory should be applied and tested in empirical contexts.
- In the Department, research methods are analysed, and standards are established for systematic ways of inferring socio-cultural phenomena, especially for ways leading to the generalisation of research results and the determination of cause-and-effect relationships. Work is also being carried out to improve research techniques. The survey continues to occupy an important place in the Department’s activities as a research tool, in addition to recourse to found data (registers, personal and biographical documents, documents produced by organisations) or qualitative methods such as individual and group interviews, field research and sociological and cultural discourse analysis.
- The Department nurtures an ethos of scientific work coupled with social sensitivity and scholars’ commitment to rationalising public debate, while maintaining a proper distance and reflective approach to their own beliefs. Science is seen as an autonomous space of critical scientific rationality as opposed to social practice. We argue that violating this autonomy leads to the instrumentalisation of science, especially for political purposes. The attitude promoted in the Department commits to engaging in the shaping of institutional rules that form the order in the world of science, especially those that guarantee freedom of research and freedom of expression.
Projects in progress
- Współwystępowanie różnych modeli duchowości w Kościele katolickim na przykładzie trzech ruchów odnowy katolickiej.