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The term paradigm shift was first coined by the American philosopher

Thomas Kuhn in 1922-1996. This term is one of the central concepts in the

work that has developed. His book The Structure of the Scientific

Revolutions was first published in 1962.

For more details, the first thing we should do is to know the idea of the

paradigm theory.


A paradigm theory is a general theory that helps to provide scientists

working in a particular field with their broad theoretical frameworkwhat

Kuhn calls their conceptual scheme. It provides them with their basic

assumptions, their key concepts, and their methodology. It gives their

research its general direction and goals. And it represents an exemplary

model of good science within a particular discipline.


Ptolemys geocentric model of the universe (with the earth at the


Copernicus heliocentric astronomy (with the sun at the center)

Aristotles physics

Galileos mechanics

The medieval theory of the four humors in medicine

Newtons theory of gravity

Daltons atomic theory

Darwins theory of evolution

Einsteins theory of relativity

Quantum mechanics

The theory of plate tectonics in geology

Germ theory in medicine

Gene theory in biology


Kuhns claim that in a paradigm shift the reality that is being studied

changes is highly controversial. His critics argue that this non-realist

point of view leads to a sort of relativism, and hence to the conclusion

that scientific progress has nothing to do with getting closer to the truth.

Kuhn seems to accept this. But he says he still believes in scientific

progress since he believes that later theories are usually better than

earlier theories in that they are more precise, deliver more powerful

predictions, offer fruitful research programs, and are more elegant.

Another consequence of Kuhns theory of paradigm shifts is that science

does not progress in an even way, gradually accumulating knowledge and

deepening its explanations. Rather, disciplines alternate between periods

of normal science conducted within a dominant paradigm, and periods of

revolutionary science when an emerging crisis requires a new paradigm.

So that is what "paradigm shift" originally meant, and what it still means

in the philosophy of science. When used outside philosophy, though, it

often just means a significant change in theory or practice.


The positivist ontology believes that the world is external (Carson et al.,

1988) and that there is a single objective reality to any research

phenomenon or situation regardless of the researchers perspective or

belief (Hudson and Ozanne, 1988). Thus, they take a controlled and

structural approach in conducting research by identifying a clear research

topic, constructing appropriate hypotheses and by adopting a suitable

research methodology (Churchill, 1996;Carson et al., 2001). Positivist

researchers remain detached from the participants of the research by

creating a distance, which is important in remaining emotionally neutral to

make clear distinctions between reason and feeling (Carson et al., 2001).

They also maintain a clear distinction between science and personal

experience and fact and value judgement. It is also important in positivist

research to seek objectivity and use consistently rational and logical

approaches to research (Carson et al., 2001). Statistical and mathematical

techniques are central to positivist research, which adheres to

specifically structured research techniques to uncover single and

objective reality (Carson et al., 2001). The goal of positivist researchers is

to make time and context free generalizations. They believe this is

possible because human actions can be explained as a result of real

causes that temporarily precedes their behaviour and the researcher and

his research subjects are independent and do not influence each other

(Hudson and Ozanne, 1988). Accordingly, positivist researchers also

attempt to remain detached from the participants of the research by

creating distance between themselves and the participants. Especially,

this is an important step in remaining emotionally neutral to make clear

distinctions between reason and feeling as well as between science and

personal experience. Positivists also claim it is important to clearly

distinguish between fact and value judgement. As positivist researchers

they seek objectivity and use consistently rational and logical approaches

to research (Carson et al. 2001; Hudson and Ozanne 1988).

The position of interpretivism in relation to ontology and epistemology is

that interpretivists believe the reality is multiple and relative (Hudson and

Ozanne, 1988). Lincoln and Guba (1985) explain that these multiple

realities also depend on other systems for meanings, which make it even

more difficult to interpret in terms of fixed realities (Neuman, 2000). The

knowledge acquired in this discipline is socially constructed rather than

objectively determined (Carson et al., 2001, p.5) and perceived

(Hirschman, 1985, Berger and Luckman, 1967, p. 3: in Hudson and Ozanne,

Positivists prefer quantitative methods such as social surveys, structured
questionnaires and official statistics because these have good reliability
and representativeness.

Positivists see society as shaping the individual and believe that social
facts shape individual action.

The positivist tradition stresses the importance of doing quantitative

research such as large scale surveys in order to get an overview of society
as a whole and to uncover social trends, such as the relationship between
educational achievement and social class. This type of sociology is more
interested in trends and patterns rather than individuals.

Positivists also believe that sociology can and should use the same
methods and approaches to study the social world that natural sciences
such as biology and physics use to investigate the physical world. By
adopting scientific techniques sociologists should be able, eventually, to
uncover the laws that govern societies just as scientists have discovered
the laws that govern the physical world.

In positivist research, sociologists tend to look for relationships, or

correlations between two or more variables. This is known as the
comparative method


Interpretivists avoid rigid structural frameworks such as in positivist

research and adopt a more personal and flexible research structures

(Carson et al., 2001) which are receptive to capturing meanings in human

interaction (Black, 2006) and make sense of what is perceived as reality

(Carson et al., 2001). They believe the researcher and his informants are

interdependent and mutually interactive (Hudson and Ozanne, 1988). The

interpretivist researcher enters the field with some sort of prior insight of

the research context but assumes that this is insufficient in developing a

fixed research design due to complex, multiple and unpredictable nature

of what is perceived as reality (Hudson and Ozanne, 1988). The researcher

remains open to new knowledge throughout the study and lets it develop

with the help of informants. The use of such an emergent and

collaborative approach is consistent with the interpretivist belief that

humans have the ability to adapt, and that no one can gain prior

knowledge of time and context bound social realities (Hudson and Ozanne,


Therefore, the goal of interpretivist research is to understand and interpret

the meanings in human behaviour rather than to generalize and predict

causes and effects (Neuman, 2000; Hudson and Ozanne, 1988). For an

interpretivist researcher it is important to understand motives, meanings,

reasons and other subjective experiences which are time and context

bound (Hudson and Ozanne, 1988; Neuman, 2000).

An Interpretivist approach to social research would be much more

qualitative, using methods such as unstructured interviews or participant

Interpretivists, or anti-positivists argue that individuals are not just

puppets who react to external social forces as Positivists believe.
According to Interpretivists individuals are intricate and complex and
different people experience and understand the same objective reality in
very different ways and have their own, often very different, reasons for
acting in the world, thus scientific methods are not appropriate.

Intepretivist research methods derive from social action theory

Intereptivists actually criticise scientific sociology (Positivism) because

many of the statistics it relies on are themselves socially constructed.

Interpretivists argue that in order to understand human action we need to

achieve Verstehen, or empathetic understanding we need to see the
world through the eyes of the actors doing the acting.


Critical Theories challenge the status quo of communication contexts,

looking for alternatives to those forms of oppressive communication.
These theories differ from other theoretical approaches because they
seek praxis as the overarching goal. Praxis is the combination of theory
and action. Rather than simply seeking to understand power structures,
critical theories actively seek to change them in positive ways. Easily
identifiable examples of critical approaches are Marxism, postmodernism,
and feminism. These critical theories expose and challenge the
communication of dominant social, economic, and political structures.
Areas of inquiry include language, social relationships, organizational
structures, politics, economics, media, cultural ideologies, interpersonal
relationships, labor, and other social movements.
Origins of Critical Theories

Marxism is one of the earliest origins of critical theory. In addition,

postmodernism, feminism, and postcolonialism have greatly influenced
how critical theories have grown and expanded to challenge a greater
number of social power structures. While each of these approaches
examines a different area of oppression, all are critical approaches to
enact great social changes, not only in western societies, but in cultures

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Karl Marxs ideas challenged the
status quo of newly emerging industrial societies. As societies moved
from agrarian-based economies to ones based in industrial manufacturing,
there became an increasing division between the rich and the poor
much like the income inequality talked about so much today. Marx, in two
of his most well-known works, The Communist Manifesto and Capital,
argued that working class laborers were being oppressed by those in
power, specifically the owners of manufacturing plants.

In any discussion of Postmodernism, another critical theoretical

perspective, the difficulty of defining the term is invariably part of the
discussion. Modern refers to just now (from modo in Latin) and post means
after. Thus, this term translates into after just nowan idea that can be
difficult to wrap our heads around. How do you, for example, point to or
mark the period after just now? (Covino & Jolliffe, 76). In discussing the
postmodern condition, Lyotard explained the relationship between those
who have and dont have social power: The [decision makers] allocate our
lives for the growth of power. In matters of social justice and scientific
truth alike, the legitimation of that power is based on optimizing the
systems performanceefficiency (27).
A third major influence on the development of the Critical Theories
Paradigm comes from feminist theories. Feminist theories explore power
structures that create and recreate gendered differentiations in
societies (Foss & Foss; Dervin; MacKinnon). Critical feminist theories
contend that gender relations are often oppressive to both men and
women, and that they support an institution based on patriarchal values.
Thus, critical feminist theories challenge dominant assumptions and
practices of gender in ways that foster more equal and egalitarian forms
of communication and social structures in society.

When discussing feminism and feminist theories we refer to a set of

multiple and diverse theories. Feminist theories include a wide range of
philosophical arguments, economic structures, and political viewpoints.
Some of these include Marxist feminism, which focuses on the division of
labor as a source of gender inequality, and liberal feminism, which asserts
that men and women should have equal status in the culturesuch as
voting rights, educational and professional opportunities, and equal pay.
Eco-feminism recognizes that all parts of the universe are interconnected
and that oppression of women and other minorities is analogous to the
oppression of the natural environment such as in the cutting down of
natural forests to meet consumer demands for paper goods, or the killing
of animals for the eating of meat.

Critical Theories in Action

Whether we see the hotel website, their own media social or their
advertisement, most of us consume media. Have you ever stopped to think
about who puts together those messages? Have you wondered what their
goals might be and why they want to send the messages they do? One way
we can use critical theories is to examine who owns what media to
determine what they are trying to accomplish (Croteau & Hoynes). These
are all questions for which we might consider using theories from the
Critical Theories Paradigm. Using Critical Theories Paradigm, we can
begin to examine the messages that so few companies are constructing
and their impacts on how we understand the world around us as shaped
through these messages.