Expertise, quality, objectivity

Even though many sociological texts deal with the issue of values, contemporary sociology has no unified theoretical conception of values. According to Strmiska, Lautman counted 180 various definitions of the notion “value” in 1981, when he tried to identify the perception of values in social sciences [Strmiska 1996: 375]. The notion of values is not only theoretically unanchored. The methodology is not unified either.

The research of values is complicated not only by theoretical ambiguity of the notion but also by the fact that the figures are not accessible to direct observation in any of their form. Empirical sociology surveys usually deduce values from attitudes, which are measured on various scales [Rabušic 2000: 19]. In practise, the survey of values is most frequently outlined by one of two possibilities: either the respondents assess the individual figures by rating or by ranking [Buriánek 2003: 134].

Both of these methods have their pluses and minuses. If the respondents assess individual “values” (or rather statements expressing some attitude) separately, they have a tendency to mark all of them as “very important.” Differences in the assessment of individual items are to a certain extent blurred. If the researchers use the second method and ask the respondents to rank the presented items, they come across an opposite problem. This method, when the respondent “is forced” to chose between individual “values”, is closer to the actual decision-making. The disadvantage of this method is that it leads to an artificial increase of differences among the individual items. Another problem of every survey of values (to a certain degree it is a problem of all sociological surveys) is the respondents’ tendency to a certain stylisation. One of the problematic items in the Czech society is “health”, especially with regard to the common statements such as “health always comes first” or “the main thing is health and the rest will come alone.” Researches sometimes substitute the general value of health by somewhat more specific items (for example Buriánek used the notion “to be in a good condition” [Buriánek 2003: 136]).