Epistemic Cultures in Sociology Between Individual Inspiration and Legitimization by Procedure: Developments of Qualitative and Interpretive Research in German and French Sociology Since the 1960s

Reiner Keller, Angelika Poferl


How do sociologists know what they know? Although sociology around the world is deeply shaped by processes of internationalization, strong regional, linguistic, and cultural differences persist. This concerns general production of knowledge, applied theories, methods as well as questions posed. In the present contribution, we discuss the development of and differences inherent to epistemic cultures in qualitative and interpretive research in French and German Sociology since the 1960s. In doing so, we refer to a document and interview based research project we directed in 2012-2014. Epistemic cultures are conceived of as the forms, ways, and practices of producing and legitimizing scientific (sociological) "output" involved in sociological knowledge-making. The production of knowledge is the core "action problem" that sociological inquiry is confronted with. This problem is addressed in rather different ways. French qualitative sociology trusts in researchers' skills, competencies, and inspirations in order to establish new knowledge. German qualitative and interpretive sociology prefers establishing "legitimacy through procedure" (procedural legitimation). We illustrate the unfolding of this difference between French and German based qualitative sociology in the early 1960s and discuss how it shapes their further development. In doing so, we intend to contribute to a current reflexive movement in sociology.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1601145


epistemic culture; knowledge; sociology; qualitative methods; interpretive; Germany; France; comparative study; research; reflexivity

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-17.1.2419

Copyright (c) 2016 Reiner Keller, Angelika Poferl

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.