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Additional info for Critiques of Research in the Social Sciences: An Appraisal of Thomas and Znaniecki’s The Polish Peasant in Europe and America

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So we proceed with the widest catholicity of interest and receptivity to gather information wherever it is to be had. The franchise of curiosity brooks no restrictions. The situation is marked in certain areas by another im­ portant feature. " This is not an impertinent question. We speak of frontiers of knowledge. [xli] The very concept of a frontier implies a territory behind the frontier i n which effective organization prevails. With any accession of new information we are bound to ask: What is the bearing of this new information on the knowledge we have had?

This charge must not be treated lightly. One can usually make a formidable case against almost every single documentary account, with the logical implication that the entire array of such accounts becomes suspect. made this observation in my critique of I The Polish Peasant in the case of the letters used by Thomas and Znaniecki. Yet, immediately, I was forced to recognize that when taken as a collective array, the letters supported one another in an unbelievably impressive way. What is one to do with such a finding?

One scheme would be to limit the usable data in a document to those which are nailed down as items of established fact. Such a proposal would strip the human document of its most valuable con­ tent, since the primary information that is sought refers to how the given actor saw, defined, and handled situations ; the accounts of these matters are seldom capable of being nailed down as established fact. Another scheme would be to ensure that the content of the document meets the criteria of representativeness, adequacy, and reliability that we have just been considering.

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Critiques of Research in the Social Sciences: An Appraisal of Thomas and Znaniecki’s The Polish Peasant in Europe and America by Herbert Blumer


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