Whose side was Becker on? Questioning political and epistemological radicalism

Hammersley, M (2001). Whose side was Becker on? Questioning political and epistemological radicalism. Qualitative Research, 1(1) pp. 91–110.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/146879410100100105

Abstract

Howard Becker’s article ‘Whose side are we on?’ has been widely cited, and widely misunderstood. It has frequently been interpreted as recommending partisan research, or as suggesting that social research cannot be objective. This article examines Becker’s position in detail, arguing that while there are some ambiguities within it, what it proposes is neither epistemologically nor politically radical in the way that is frequently assumed. What is true, though, is that Becker believes that systematic and rigorous sociological research inevitably tends to have radical political implications. In addition, he adopts a form of cultural relativism, whilst holding on to a notion of objectivity that is grounded in a commitment to pragmatism.

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