"Scientistic sociology" is rhetorician Richard Weaver's term for sociological research that adopts the conventions of scientific discourse whether or not such conventions are necessarily suited to sociology. This concept is further developed in his essay "Concealed Rhetoric in Scientistic Sociology" (1959) that is part of his book, Language is Sermonic.
Weaver asserts in his essay that, due to science's high status in society and the steady decline of respect for the study of rhetoric, sociologists use a form of "name calling" in order to gain prestige; calling sociology a "social science" is one way that this occurs. Another way of appearing more scientific that sociologists employ is the use of various scientific conventions in writing reports, such as the following:
- using statistics, charts, and data tables for a study to appear as empirically verifiable as a natural scientist's
- citing dozens of other authorities on the study's subject
- using scientific jargon
- adopting a kind of modesty that natural scientists use for precision; for instance, instead of saying "all fish swim", an ichthyologist would say, "Most, if not all, fish swim" in the interests of preserving accuracy; similarly, a sociologist may say, "Poverty and starvation appear to be interrelated." Weaver asserts that the sociologist's cautious wording is not out of a desire to preserve the truth so much as to avoid taking responsibility for inaccuracies
Weaver's solution to the problem of scientistic sociology is to redefine sociology as a "social philosophy" instead of a "social science". This would mean that sociology would surrender the prestige that comes from being associated with science, but the benefit of this change would be that the discipline would no longer need to apply methods meant for physical sciences to social phenomena. In addition, the name of "social philosophy" would allow sociologists to permit themselves to make and express value judgments in the name of social improvement rather than refraining from doing so to preserve the appearance of scientific neutrality.
And for you sociologists out there, I'm not hatin' on ya. But Weaver sure is.