‘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.