The recent history of sociological theory can in large measure
be written in terms of an alternation between two contrasting emphases.
On the one hand, we observe those sociologists who seek above all to generalize,
to find their way as rapidly as possible to the formulation of sociological
laws. Tending to assess the significance of sociological work in
terms of scope rather than the demonstrability of generalizations, they
eschew the "triviality" of detailed, small-scale observations and seek
the grandeur of global summaries. At the other extreme stands a hardy
band who do not hunt too closely the implications of their research but
who remain confident and assured that what they report is so. To
be sure, their reports of facts are verifiable and often verified, but
they are somewhat at a loss to relate these facts to one another or even
to explain why these. Rather than other, observations have been made.
For the first group the identifying motto would at times seem to be: "We
do not know whether what we say is true, but it is at least significant."
And for the radical empiricist the motto may read: "This is demonstrably
so, but we cannot indicate its significance." (1968, p. 139).