Many scholars shifted to non-positivism when they realized that the sociological issues couldn’t be addressed by using fixed laws only. Positivists saw society as given and man as mere part of it being governed by its rules. Non-positivists considered man as an independent thinking being who can also influence society. They rejected the over socialized conception of man. Non-positivist methodologies thus tried to gauge what goes inside the mind of a man and how it affects society. Even before when sociology can be seen as formal discipline, such ideas were prevalent during the late 18thcentury when German idealist school attempted to define social reality differently. Scholars like Dilthey and Rickert talked about the difference between natural and social world. According to these scholars social world is based upon uniqueness of human society in terms of meaning, symbols and motives. George Hegel argued social phenomena are results of ideas that are generated in the minds of individuals and these ideas are responsible for history. This tradition was carried on and by the end of 19thcentury an alternate view to Positivism had strongly emerged which contained variety of thoughts and was known as non-positivist methodology. Max Weber was one of the pioneers of the Non-Positivist approach. Other important scholars were Mead, Herbert Blumer, Schutz etc.Weber laid the foundation of interpretivist methodology and Mead pioneered symbolic interactionism. Various other non-positivist methods emerged included symbolic interactionism, ideal types and verstehan of Weber, Phenomenology by Alfred Schutz in 1930s and Ethnomethodology by Harold Garfinkel in 1940s. Some common features of Non positivist methodologies are
They study the internal processes represented through emotions, motives, aspirations and the individual’s interpretation of social reality.
Non-positivists emphasized upon using qualitative methods and not the scientific methods similar to the ones used in natural sciences. Earlier Weber and Mead emphasized upon the use of scientific methods but later Alfred Schutz and Garfinkel rejected their use.
They also suggested the understanding of social reality and not prediction of events. They refrained from formulation of generalized universal theories. While Weber and Mead stressed upon the cause and effect relations, Schutz eliminated such a possibility. They also highlighted impossibility of total objectivity and hence were accommodative of subjectivity in research.