Orientation Observation In-depth interviews Document analysis and semiology Conversation and discourse analysis Secondary Data Surveys Experiments Ethics Research outcomes



Social Research Glossary

About Researching the Real World



© Lee Harvey 2012–2020

Page updated 29 April, 2020

Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2020, Researching the Real World, available at
All rights belong to author.


A Guide to Methodology

2. Orientation

2.4 Critical Social Research

2.4.1 The Development of Critial Social Research Anti-racism
Another strand of critical social research comes from approaches that engage racism in one form or another. These approaches are labelled in various ways and the labelling changes rapidly reflecting the politicisation of terms in relation to 'ethnicity' and 'race'. Critical approaches related to 'race' and racism include Black Marxism, Black sociology (from the US), anti-colonialism.

One example is Ben Turok's (1987) analysis of the post-colonial situation in Africa. He drew directly on Marxist Leninism in his exploration of the economic and political situation throughout the continent. He argued that, in order to understand, and ultimately overthrow, the neo-colonialism that characterises most post-independent states, it is necessary to understand the character of the state and the nature of the social superstructure. Although there had been considerable continuity from pre- to post-independence systems, there had, Turok argues, also been a break and it is important to understand the nature of that change. Those who want to change African societies found themselves free from colonial oppression but caught up in a new network of repression and reaction that was often more formidable than the colonial rule. The new internal ruling class, often set in place by the outgoing colonialists to ensure that the interests of the colonial power are safeguarded after independence, was not challenged by mass anti-colonialist nationalist parties. Once power had been handed over to the new bourgeoisie, mass-movement parties were dissolved and with it the opportunity for more power to pass to the mass of the people.

Not all feminist analyses constitute critical social research and the same can be said for analyses of 'race'. Where the analysis is based on a biological reductionist view, that biological differences lead to psychological differences, and thus oppression is based on innate differences, then the causal relationship is fixed and not amenable to critical social enquiry.

See Critical Social Research Section 4 for more detail on anti-racist approaches to critical social research, including four example studies.


Next 2.4.2 Elements of critical social research