Chapter

The Extended Case Method

Michael Burawoy

in The Extended Case Method

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2009 | ISBN: 9780520259003
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520943384 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520259003.003.0002
The Extended Case Method

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This chapter illustrates and explicates the extended case method using a study conducted between 1968 and 1972 in the then newly independent African country of Zambia. This study was chosen because it most effectively illustrates both the virtues and the limits of the extended case method. The chapter is organized as follows. It begins with a narrative of the study of the Zambian copper industry, highlighting the social embeddedness of reflexive research. It then shows how the study violated each of the four principles of positive science. If there were only this model of science, either the extended case method or science would have to be abandoned. However, the extended case method is not alone in violating positive principles. It is shown that survey research—the quintessentially positive method—transgresses its own principles because of inescapable context effects stemming from the indissoluble connection between interviewer and respondent, and from the embeddedness of the interview in a wider field of social relations. We can either live with the gap between positive principles and practice, all the while trying to close it, or formulate an alternative model of science that takes context as its point of departure, that thematizes our presence in the world we study. That alternative is the “reflexive” model of science that, when applied to the technique of participant observation, gives rise to the extended case method.

Keywords: Zambia; extended case method; copper industry; reflexive research; positive science

Chapter.  14345 words. 

Subjects: Social Research and Statistics

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