This article explores what Merton has called the reciprocal relations between theoretical and empirical work. These relations involve a variety of mechanisms identified by Merton, beyond the classical links in which empirical work tests the implications of theories and provides the starting postulates for new theories. To illustrate some of the ways in which theoretical ideas shape empirical work and empirical ideas shape theoretical work, this article discusses the origins, development, and uses of the justice evaluation function. The development of the justice evaluation function exemplifies two of the mechanisms by which empirical work influences theoretical work and shows how theoretical ideas can play a critical role in an outwardly inductivist empirical inquiry. The subsequent development of the theory of distributive justice and of the generalized comparison function and comparison theory leads not only to new testable implications and new empirical procedures but also to new theoretical and empirical questions, whose resolution may, in turn, lead to the development of new theories.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Sociology and Political Science