Reverberations from Littledene: Empirical research in New Zealand sociology

Date Published: 2016
Crothers, Charles

The history of empirical social research projects tends to be downplayed in histories of National Sociologies and indeed sociology more generally. The history of New Zealand social research began with the iconic 'Littledene' study and then showed broadly similar patterns over time with Sociology departments hosting somewhat empiricist community surveys, often at least in part as student exercises, in their earlier years with this tradition largely abandoned after the 1980s although continuing in some policy research circles. Community-orientated research has been largely replaced by small-scale ethnographic studies applied across a very wide range. There is, too, a more statistical tradition that has continued in New Zealand sociology. The topics and research methods used in empirical social research have been partially shaped over time by organisational arrangements, societal and government research agenda, funding opportunities, ethical constraints and trends in fashionable methodologies so some of these effects are pointed to. Although there have been connections with the empirical sociologies of the world metropolitan core, New Zealand empirical social research has largely remained local and has seldom affected policy-makers the general public, or the broader sociological community.

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