How are institutions sustained, reproduced, and changed?

Institutions are "supra-individual", in the sense that they establish a context of identity and mental-framework formation for all individuals, and they create the environment of choice for the current actions of individuals. Further, they exercise an influence that is beyond the control of any particular individual or group of individuals. But at the same time, …

Microfoundations 2.0?

Figure. An orderly ontological hierarchy (University of Leeds (link) Figure. Complex non-reductionist social outcome -- blight The idea that hypotheses about social structures and forces require microfoundations has been around for at least 40 years. Maarten Janssen’s New Palgrave essay on microfoundations documents the history of the concept in economics; link. E. Roy Weintraub was …

Margaret Archer on social change

In Late Modernity: Trajectories towards Morphogenic Society Margaret Archer and several talented collaborators attempt to lay out a framework of thinking that will permit them to better conceptualize the nature of change the modern social world. The book continues a process of reflection and collaboration that began last year with the publication of Social Morphogenesis. Ultimately the …

The social world

image: Tuileries, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Toledo Museum of Art exibition It seems self evident, barely worth remarking, that social outcomes are the result of the actions of numbers of ordinary human beings, doing things for their own particular reasons -- finding solutions to the challenges of life that confront them, taking care of themselves and their …

Mohamed Cherkaoui on the micro-macro debate

The eminent French sociologist Mohamed Cherkaoui addresses the problem of delineating the micro-macro distinction in several works. Since Cherkaoui's empirical research on social stratification and the educational system seems often to bridge between micro and macro, his views are of interest. Cherkaoui's analysis is presented in English primarily in three places, "The individual and the …

New thinking about social systems

There is a great deal of important international work underway today within the philosophy of social science on the general topic of social ontology. How do social structures relate to the actions of socially situated actors? How does causation work in the social realm? Can we say anything rigorous about the nature of "levels" of the social …

Social embeddedness and methodological localism

Methodological localism emphasizes two ways in which actors are socially embedded. Actors are socially situated and socially constituted. Socially situated. In any given situation individuals are embedded within a set of social relations and institutions that create opportunities and costs for them. They have friends and enemies, they have bosses and workers, they have neighbors and …

Methodological localism and actor-centered sociology

  I've advocated in earlier posts for two related ideas: the idea of actor-centered sociology and the idea of methodological localism. The first idea recommends that sociologists couch their research and theories in terms of more specific and nuanced theories of the actors whose thoughts and actions make up the social processes of interest. The …

Are there meso-level social causes?

Social structures and other social "things" are ontologically peculiar in some ways. Most especially, they are abstract, distributed, and non-material. We can't put a culturally dominant food aversion or a group prejudice in a box and weigh it. And yet many of us want to say that social structures are "real", not merely theoretical constructs. …

Microfoundationalism

detail: Lynn Cazabon photo The philosophy of social science encompasses several important tasks, and key among them is to provide theories of social ontology and social explanation. What is the nature of social entities? What is needed in order to substantiate a claim of social causation? What constitutes an acceptable social explanation? The concept of …

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