Philosophy of public administration?

Philosophy has well-developed theories about the foundations of government — the moral principles that underlie the legitimacy of government; the nature of rights and duties of citizens; the limits of government authority; and so on for a large number of issues. These debates take place within social and political philosophy, a field whose lineage extends back …

Is ontological individualism still a viable social ontology?

image: a flat social ontology: actors and structures Over the years I've continued to advocate for the position of ontological individualism -- the idea that social entities, powers, and conditions are all constituted by the actions, thoughts, and mental frameworks of individual human beings, and nothing else. I'm no longer entirely confident that this is …

Atomism versus holism in social ontology

Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit addressed the micro-macro question in an essay called "Structural Explanation in Social Theory" (link), included in Reduction, Explanation, and Realism (1992, ch. 4). Particularly interesting is the brief distinction that they draw between two senses of individualism: atomism versus holism, and individualism versus collectivism. They believe that these two distinctions are quite …

Guest post: Varieties of realism by Jamie Morgan

[Jamie Morgan accepted my invitation to contribute a guest post to Understanding Society on the topic of the varieties of realism in the philosophy of social science. Jamie is Professor of Economic Sociology at Leeds Beckett University. He co-edits the Real-World Economics Review with Edward Fullbrook. He has published widely in the fields of economics, …

Reforming policing

The persistent fact of racial disparities in the use of deadly force by police officers in US cities is an intolerable injustice. The Washington Post has maintained a database of police shootings since 2015 which includes shootings but not other causes of death; link. This database shows a glaring level of disparity between black, Hispanic, and white persons …

Twitter’s unacceptable hidden defect

image: github analysis of Twitter follower network (link) Twitter's paroxysms in the past two weeks have been unsettling. But suddenly, I am coming to believe that many of us have misunderstood what we were getting into when we got involved in Twitter in the first place. We had made assumptions about the advantages that Twitter …

Critical realism and ontological individualism

Most critical realists would probably think that their philosophy of social science is flatly opposed to ontological individualism. However, I think that this opposition is unwarranted. Let's begin by formulating a clear idea of ontological individualism. This is the view that social entities, powers, and conditions are all constituted by the actions, thoughts, and mental …

Better-functioning organizations

A recurring topic here is the potential for large and costly failures created by the dysfunctions of complex organizations (link). This perspective on organizations follows from the work of sociologists like Charles Perrow, Diane Vaughan, and Andrew Hopkins. But we can also ask the symmetrical question: is it possible for a medium- or large-scale organization …

Social cognitive frameworks and social class

It is evident that all of us "filter" the social worlds that we inhabit according to a set of expectations, assumptions, stereotypes, and values. We understand a social interaction that we ourselves participate in, or merely observe, through these assumptions and filters. We might describe these systems of thought as "social-cognitive frameworks" -- the collection …

Organizational factors and nuclear power plant safety

image: Peach Bottom Nuclear Plant The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has responsibility for ensuring the safe operations of the nuclear power reactors in the United States, of which there are approximately 100. There are significant reasons to doubt whether its regulatory regime is up to the task. Part of the challenge is the technical issue of …

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