Durkheim’s social holism

Emile Durkheim is celebrated for many achievements in the founding of the discipline of sociology, but most striking is his endorsement of the autonomy and irreducibility of the social realm to individual motivation, action, or psychology. "Social facts are things, irreducible to individual psychology." Durkheim was, we are often told, a social holist. This is …

Actors in historical epochs

I've argued often for the idea that social science and historical explanations need to be "actor-centered" -- we need to ground our hypotheses about social and historical causation in theories of the pathways through which actors embody those causal processes. Actors in relation to each other constitute the "substrate" of social causation. Actors make up …

Are emergence and microfoundations contraries?

image: micro-structure of a nanomaterial (link) Are there strong logical relationships among the ideas of emergence, microfoundations, generative dependency, and supervenience? It appears that there are.     The diagram represents the social world as a laminated set of layers of entities, processes, powers, and laws. Entities at L2 are composed of or caused by …

Do we still need microfoundations?

For quite a few years I have found the concept of microfoundations to be central for thinking about relationships across levels of social and individual activity. Succinctly, I have argued that, while it is perfectly legitimate to formulate theories and hypotheses about the properties and causal powers of higher-level social entities, it is necessary that …

Microfoundations and causal powers

Image: Three Mile Island control room   There isn't a lot of cross-over between the microfoundations literature (Peter Hedstrom, Dissecting the Social: On the Principles of Analytical Sociology) and the causal-powers literature (Greco and Groff, Powers and Capacities in Philosophy: The New Aristotelianism). People who advocate the importance of microfoundations in the social sciences are …

Microfoundations and mechanisms

The topics of microfoundations and causal mechanisms have come up frequently in this work. The microfoundations thesis maintains that social attributions and explanations based on macro-level entities and structures depend upon pathways at the level of the individual actors through which the entities and processes are maintained. The causal mechanisms thesis maintains that the best …

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 …

Institutional logics — actors within institutions

  Why do people behave as they do within various social contexts -- the workplace, the street, the battlefield, the dinner table? These are fundamental questions for sociologists -- even when they are ultimately interested in the workings of supra-individual entities like organizations and structures. And generally speaking, sociology as a research tradition has perhaps …

Guest post by Jeroen Van Bouwel: On microfoundations and macrofoundations

[Jeroen Van Bouwel accepted my invitation to offer his thoughts about several recent posts here on the topic of microfoundations. Jeroen is co-author (with Erik Weber and L. De Vreese) of Scientific Explanation (Springer, 2013). Jeroen is a post-doctoral fellow at Ghent University and a visiting scholar in philosophy at Uppsala University. Thanks, Jeroen!] In his …

Issues about microfoundations

I believe that hypotheses, theories, and explanations in the social sciences need to be subject to the requirement of microfoundationalism. This requirement can be understood in a weak and a strong version, and sometimes people understand the idea as a requirement of reductionism.  In brief, I defend the position in a weak form that does …

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