The Werturteilsstreit (German for "value judgment dispute") is a Methodenstreit, a quarrel in German sociology and economics around the question whether the social sciences are a normative obligatory statement in politics and its measures applied in political actions, and whether their measures can be justified scientifically.[1]

The quarrel took place in the years before World War I, between the members of the Verein für Socialpolitik. Main opponents were Max Weber, Werner Sombart and Gustav Schmoller.

The Zweiter Werturteilsstreit is the debate between the supporter of the Kritische Theorie and the Kritischer Rationalismus during the 1960s — better known as Positivismusstreit.


  1. ^ Hans Albert: Ökonomische Ideologie und politische Theorie, Göttingen 1972. p. 10.

Further reading

  • Hans Albert and Ernst Topitsch (editor) – Werturteilsstreit –, Darmstadt 1971
  • Äußerungen zur Werturteilsdiskussion im Ausschuß des Vereins für Socialpolitik. – printed as manuscript 1913.
  • John DeweyLogik. Die Theorie der Forschung –, 1986 (Published in German 2002 as "Sozialforschung")
  • Christian von Ferber – Der Werturteilsstreit 1909–1959. Versuch einer wissenschaftlichen Interpretation. – In: Ernst Topitsch (editor) – Logik der Sozialwissenschaften. – , Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Köln, 8. Auflage 1972, ISBN 3-462-00405-0 or ISBN 3-462-00406-9
  • Dirk KaeslerEinführung in das Studium Max Webers –, München 1979
  • Dieter Lindenlaub – Richtungskämpfe im Verein für Socialpolitik. Wissenschaft und Sozialpolitik im Kaiserreich vornehmlich vom Beginn des “Neuen Kurses“ bis zum Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkrieges (1890–1914) –, part I + II., Wiesbaden 1967 (Beihefte zur Vierteljahresschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte Nr. 52/53)
  • Jürgen MittelstraßWerturteilsstreit –, in: Enzyklopädie: Philosophie und Wissenschaftstheorie, 1996
  • Wolfgang SchluchterWertfreiheit und Verantwortungsethik –, Tübingen 1971
  • Gustav von SchmollerDie Volkswirtschaft, die Volkswirtschaftslehre und ihre Methode, 1893 (Frankfurt am Main 1949)
  • Verhandlungen des Vereins für Socialpolitik in Wien, 1909 –, Leipzig 1910. (Schriften des Vereins für Socialpolitik, Band 132)
  • Max Weber and Johannes F. Winckelmann (editor) – Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre -, Tübingen 1988, ISBN 3-16-845373-0
A General View of Positivism

A General View of Positivism (Discours sur l'ensemble du positivisme) was an 1848 book by the French philosopher Auguste Comte, first published in English in 1865. A founding text in the development of positivism and the discipline of sociology, the work provides a revised and full account of the theory Comte presented earlier in his multi-part The Course in Positive Philosophy (1830–1842). Comte outlines the epistemological view of positivism, provides an account of the manner by which sociology should be performed, and describes his law of three stages.

Berlin Circle

The Berlin Circle (German: die Berliner Gruppe) was a group that maintained logical empiricist views about philosophy.

Constructive empiricism

In philosophy, constructive empiricism (also empiricist structuralism) is a form of empiricism.

Course of Positive Philosophy

The Course of Positive Philosophy (Cours de Philosophie Positive) was a series of texts written by the French philosopher of science and founding sociologist, Auguste Comte, between 1830 and 1842. Within the work he unveiled the epistemological perspective of positivism. The works were translated into English by Harriet Martineau and condensed to form The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte (1853).

The first three volumes of the Course dealt chiefly with the physical sciences already in existence (mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology), whereas the latter two emphasised the inevitable coming of social science. It is in observing the circular dependence of theory and observation in science, and classifying the sciences in this way, that Comte may be regarded as the first philosopher of science in the modern sense of the term. For him, the physical sciences had necessarily to arrive first, before humanity could adequately channel its efforts into the most challenging and complex "queen science" of human society itself. His A General View of Positivism (published in English in 1865) would therefore set out to define, in more detail, the empirical goals of sociology.

Epistemological idealism

Epistemological idealism is a subjectivist position in epistemology that holds that what one knows about an object exists only in one's mind. It is opposed to epistemological realism.

Ernst Laas

Ernst Laas (June 16, 1837, Fürstenwalde, Brandenburg, Prussia – July 25, 1885, Straßburg, Germany (now Strasbourg, France)) was a German positivist philosopher.


Geisteswissenschaften (German pronunciation: [ˈɡaɪstəsˌvɪsənʃaftən], "sciences of mind") is a set of human sciences such as philosophy, history, philology, musicology, linguistics, theater studies, literary studies, media studies, and sometimes even theology and jurisprudence, that are traditional in German universities. Most of its subject matter would come under the much larger humanities faculty in the typical English-speaking university.


Methodenstreit (German for "method dispute"), in intellectual history beyond German-language discourse, was an economics controversy commenced in the 1880s and persisting for more than a decade, between that field's Austrian School and the (German) Historical School. The debate concerned the place of general theory in social science and the use of history in explaining the dynamics of human action. It also touched on policy and political issues, including the roles of the individual and state. Nevertheless, methodological concerns were uppermost and some early members of the Austrian School also defended a form of welfare state, as prominently advocated by the Historical School.

When the debate opened, Carl Menger developed the Austrian School's standpoint, and Gustav von Schmoller defended the approach of the Historical School.

(In German-speaking countries, the original of this Germanism is not specific to the one controversy—which is likely to be specified as Methodenstreit der Nationalökonomie, i.e. "Methodenstreit of economics".)

Nomothetic and idiographic

Nomothetic and idiographic are terms used by Neo-Kantian philosopher Wilhelm Windelband to describe two distinct approaches to knowledge, each one corresponding to a different intellectual tendency, and each one corresponding to a different branch of academe.

Nomothetic is based on what Kant described as a tendency to generalize, and is typical for the natural sciences. It describes the effort to derive laws that explain types or categories of objective phenomena, in general.

Idiographic is based on what Kant described as a tendency to specify, and is typical for the humanities. It describes the effort to understand the meaning of contingent, unique, and often cultural or subjective phenomena.

Positivism dispute

The positivism dispute (German: Positivismusstreit) was a political-philosophical dispute between the critical rationalists (Karl Popper, Hans Albert) and the Frankfurt School (Theodor Adorno, Jürgen Habermas) in 1961, about the methodology of the social sciences. It grew into a broad discussion within German sociology from 1961 to 1969. The naming itself is controversial, since it was the Frankfurt School proponents who accused the critical rationalists of being positivists—while the latter considered themselves to be opponents of positivism. On the political level, it was a dispute between the leftist Frankfurt School proponents supporting revolution, and the allegedly bourgeois critical rationalists supporting reform as the method to be preferred to change society.

Positivism in Poland

Positivism in Poland was a socio-cultural movement that defined progressive thought in literature and social sciences of partitioned Poland, following the suppression of the 1863 January Uprising against the occupying army of Imperial Russia. The Positivist period lasted until the turn of the 20th century, and the advent of the modernist Young Poland movement.


Post-behavioralism (or post-behaviouralism) also known as neo-behavioralism (or neo-behaviouralism) was a reaction against the dominance of behavioralist methods in the study of politics. One of the key figures in post-behaviouralist thinking was David Easton who was originally one of the leading advocates of the "behavioral revolution". Post-behavioralists claimed that despite the alleged value-neutrality of behavioralist research it was biased towards the status quo and social preservation rather than social change.


In philosophy and models of scientific inquiry, postpositivism (also called postempiricism) is a metatheoretical stance that critiques and amends positivism. While positivists emphasize independence between the researcher and the researched person (or object), postpositivists argue that theories, background, knowledge and values of the researcher can influence what is observed. Postpositivists pursue objectivity by recognizing the possible effects of biases. While positivists emphasize quantitative methods, postpositivists consider both quantitative and qualitative methods to be valid approaches.

Russian Machism

Russian Machism is a political/philosophical viewpoint which emerged in Imperial Russia in the beginning of the twentieth century before the Russian Revolution. They upheld the scientific and philosophical insights of Ernst Mach to be of great interest. Many of the Russian Machists were Marxists, and indeed viewed Machism as an essential ingredient of a materialist outlook on the world.

The Logic of Modern Physics

The Logic of Modern Physics is a 1927 philosophy of science book by American physicist and Nobel laureate Percy Williams Bridgman. The book was widely read by scholars in the social sciences, in which it had a huge influence in the 1930s and 1940s, and its major influence on the field of psychology in particular surpassed even that on methodology in physics, for which it was originally intended. The book is notable for explicitly identifying, analyzing, and explaining operationalism for the first time, and coining the term operational definition.

Operationalism can be considered a variation on the positivist theme, and, arguably, a very powerful and influential one. Sir Arthur Eddington had discussed notions similar to operationalization before Bridgman, and pragmatic philosophers had also advanced solutions to the related ontological problems. Bridgman's formulation, however, became the most influential.

The Logic of Scientific Discovery

The Logic of Scientific Discovery is a 1959 book about the philosophy of science by Karl Popper. Popper rewrote his book in English from the 1934 German original, titled Logik der Forschung. Zur Erkenntnistheorie der modernen Naturwissenschaft, which literally translates as, "Logic of Research: On the Epistemology of Modern Natural Science"'.

The Universe in a Nutshell

The Universe in a Nutshell is a 2001 book about theoretical physics by Stephen Hawking. It is generally considered a sequel and was created to update the public concerning developments since the multi-million-copy bestseller A Brief History of Time published in 1988.

Verein für Socialpolitik

The Verein für Socialpolitik (German: [fɛɐ̯ˈʔaɪn fyːɐ̯ zoˈtsi̯al.poliˌtːik], or the German Economic Association, is an important society of economists in the German-speaking area.

World Hypotheses

World Hypotheses: a study in evidence (also known as World Hypotheses: Prolegomena to systematic philosophy and a complete survey of metaphysics) is a book written by Stephen Pepper, published in 1942.

In World Hypotheses, Pepper demonstrates the error of logical positivism, that there is no such thing as data free from interpretation, and that root metaphors are necessary in epistemology. In other words, objectivity is a myth because there is no such thing as pure, objective fact. Consequently, an analysis is necessary to understand how to interpret these 'facts.' Pepper does so by developing the "[root metaphor method, ...] and outlines what he considers to be four basically adequate world hypotheses (world views or conceptual systems): formism, mechanism, contextualism, and organicism." He identifies the strengths and weaknesses of each of the world hypotheses as well as the paradoxical and sometimes mystifying effects of the effort to synthesize them.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.