It has become quite common to view research into social inequality as something that liberal leftwing academics do. This does not apply to all types of inequality equally. In fact, the calls accusing the researcher of subjective leftwing viewpoints – which supposedly stand in opposition to something like ‘objective’ science – become particularly pronounced in the fields of gender, sexuality and race.
Let me get straight to the point.
This accusation that the Sociological researcher is by definition leftwing is rooted in this fundamental misunderstanding of what political means in Sociology.
Studying inequality, describing it, searching for its origins and measuring its consequences cannot be placed on the political party spectrum of left or right, conservative or liberal (political).
Rather, Sociology studies the distribution of power in societies, which has to do with the capacity of one social group influencing the behavior of another social group (political).
Claiming that Sociological research can be reduced to leftwing ideology is a gross attack on the Sociological craft and discredits entire scientific fields.
Does that mean I think Sociological research is neutral and objective?
OF COURSE NOT.
Every person is bound by their own subjective viewpoint and their capacity to imagine things, also the researcher. The position we hold in society heavily informs the type of questions we ask, where we turn our attention to and how we interpret what we see.
Luckily, scientific knowledge is cumulative and can never be influenced by a few lefties or righties here and there. It can, however, be influenced if members of a certain social group make up a disproportionate part of all Sociologists (like say, old White men). Whatever their viewpoints can grasp will collectively and disproportionately be perceived as scientific “truth”.
Oh! Wait. Is this… a political question? Well, yes it is! Political as in political,
of course, not political.