The vast majority of contemporary social scientists have distanced themselves from moral reflection and the academic disciplines that engage in it. Throughout his long career Philip Selznick took a different path, engaging deeply with the moral content of the concepts he employed. This paper argues that he had good reasons to do so. Value neutrality in social research can fatally sever inquiry’s connection to the practical concerns that originally motivated it, and it can distort our understanding of those concerns by recasting them in a scientific mold. To make this case I draw from a long tradition of philosophical thought about the relationship between facts and values, and I illustrate it by examining the limitations of recent social science research about procedural justice in organizations and the order maintenance function of the police.
Thanks to Matt Kraatz for insightful comments on an earlier draft and to Mayer Zald for his advice and encouragement on this and so many other projects.
Thacher, D. (2015), "Perils of Value Neutrality", Institutions and Ideals: Philip Selznick’s Legacy for Organizational Studies (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 44), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 317-352. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X20150000044012Download as .RIS
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