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John H. Goldthorpe

(b. 1935)


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(1935– )

British sociologist, a class analyst with a particular interest in social mobility. Drawing on earlier work by David Lockwood with whom he collaborated on The Affluent Worker studies (1968–9), developed a class schema for use in mobility research. In adapted form this schema now forms the basis of the UK government's official social class schema, the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification. At the centre of Goldthorpe's intellectual concerns has been a rejection of historicism whether in its liberal form (the ‘logic of industrialism’) or its Marxist alternative. Attached to both the Weberian separation of politics from sociology and the Popperian philosophy of science, he is a strong advocate of sociology as social science and a falsificationist approach. Goldthorpe argues for the search for empirical regularities as revealed through multivariate analysis of large scale survey data and the explanation of regularities via a form of rational action theory. For Goldthorpe, sociological problems arise when we observe and establish significant social regularities that are nevertheless opaque. The role of scientific sociology is to explain these regularities and remove their puzzling character. In using rational action theory, Goldthorpe specifically rejects the explanation of social phenomena in terms of general, covering laws in favour of accounting for causal processes and the mechanisms that produce them.


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