Brief Overview

Standpoint theory is based in the relevance of subjectivity versus objectivity in sociologic inquiry. The exploration of the social begins with the exploration of an individual's everyday/night experience.

Formal Definition

Standpoint theory was first developed by Dorothy Smith as a unique feminist sociology research methodology. The research begins with a woman's account of her everyday experience and moves from that standpoint to explore the "generalizing and generalized relations" in which an individual's experience is embedded. To quote Smith (1974): "To begin from direct experience and to return to it as a constraint or "test" of the adequacy of a systematic knowledge is to begin from where we are located bodily. The actualities of our everyday world are already socially organized. Settings, equipment, environment, schedules, occasions, and so forth, as well as our enterprises and routines, are socially produced and concretely and symbolically organized prior to the moment at which we enter and at which inquiry begins. By taking up a standpoint in our original and immediate knowledge of the world, sociologists can make their discipline's socially organized properties first observable and then problematic."

Detailed Description

Smith developed the concept of standpoint theory in the context of the Women's Movement and as a reaction to an objective sociology claiming authority as part of the ruling relations. She proposes the counter hegemonic object of our knowledge as originating in the co-ordering of activities among "subjects", allowing for exploration of the plurality of experience or "the voices of those who know the society differently" (1974).

Recommended Reading "Women's Experience as a Radical Critique of Sociology," The Conceptual Practices of Power: A Feminist Sociology of Knowledge (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1990 [1974]), pp. 21-24

The Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987).

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