chapter  13
38 Pages

‘The Ontology of the Questionnaire: Max Weber on Measurement and Mass Investigation’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 32, pp. 647—84

Robert Michael Brain* Although contemporary sociologists of science have sometimes claimed Max Weber as a methodological precursor, they have not examined Weber’s own writings about science. Between 1908 and 1912 Weber published a series of critical studies of the extension of scientific authority into public life. The most notable of these concerned attempts to implement the experimental psychology or psycho-physics laboratory in factories and other real-world settings. Weber’s critique centered on the problem of social measurement. He emphasized the discontinuities between the space of the lab­ oratory and that of the factory, showing how several qualitative and historically con­ ditioned differences between the two settings rendered the transfer of instruments and methods between them highly problematic. Weber’s critical arguments prepared the ground for his greatest foray into empirical sociology, a survey he directed for the Verein fiir Sozialpolitik investigating the conditions and attitudes affecting the lives and performance of industrial workers. Using a different measuring instrument — the questionnaire — Weber tried to implement a concept of social measurement which implied a different ontology, drawn not from natural sciences but from the historical sciences.