postulate of adequacy

postulate of adequacy

  1. the doctrine (especially in SOCIAL PHENOMENOLOGY) that sociological accounts and explanations must be understandable to the social actor(s) involved in the social situations described or explained (see SCHUTZ, 1972).
  2. the doctrine (particular to WEBER) that sociological explanations must be adequate at the level of meaning (see also MEANINGFUL UNDERSTANDING AND EXPLANATION), but in addition they must also possess causal adequacy. This means that there must be indication that the events described are grounded empirically, including a grounding in empirical regularities, i.e. some probability that they would inevitably occur.
Not all sociologists accept Schutz's or even Weber's view, arguing instead that actors’ understandings are frequently incoherent, and may be properly explained away or supplanted by sociological explanations, e.g. as merely surface meanings explicable in terms of underlying, perhaps UNCONSCIOUS meanings (see PSYCHOANALYSIS), or as FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS resulting from IDEOLOGY, or explicable without any reference to meanings (as in BEHAVIOURISM). In any of these cases, social outcomes may be seen as the UNANTICIPATED CONSEQUENCES OF SOCIAL ACTION.

GIDDENS‘ (1976a) response to this, in some ways a refinement of both Schutz's and Weber's views, is that, while sociological accounts should always start from actors’ meanings, they must often move beyond these, although they must never ignore or discount the actors‘ concepts. The view also exists that even complex decodings and supplantings of actors’ meanings by sociological accounts can be fed back to the actors involved for acceptance and for action (as intended, for example, in FREUD's psychoanalysis or in HABERMAS's proposals, based on Freud and Marx, for an ‘emancipatory’ social science). see also DOUBLE HERMENEUTIC.

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