Literary tradition and social identity

Literary traditions are sometimes thought to have an underlying interconnectedness and coherence that makes them more than simply a group of works sharing geography or group. Irish poetry and drama, for example, extend over several centuries, involving writers with a range of voices and preoccupations; and yet it is often thought that they are distinctively …

Heterogeneity of the social

I think heterogeneity is a very basic characteristic of the domain of the social. And I think this makes a big difference for how we should attempt to study the social world "scientifically". What sorts of things am I thinking about here?Let's start with some semantics. A heterogeneous group of things is the contrary of …

Arguments for social holism

The topic of methodological individualism (MI) came up in a recent posting, and I underlined the connection between MI and some version of reductionism. Here I'd like to take a different approach and ask the question, what considerations can be offered in support of some version of social holism? Here are a couple of arguments …

Methodological individualism

Methodological individualism (MI) is a doctrine in the philosophy of the social sciences about the relationship between "society" and individuals. The idea can be formulated in several related but somewhat different ways: social facts are constituted by facts about individuals; social entities are composed of individuals and their properties and relations; social structures and entities …

Mentalité?

Is there such a thing as a "mentalité" of a people, group, or nation? Take these young people at an Iowa potluck supper, or the traders pictured below at the Chicago Board of Trade -- is there a midwestern mentalité that they can be said to share? What factors might be comprised by such a …

Microfoundations of social practices

By a practice I mean such things as agricultural techniques, craft technologies, and customs of ordinary life -- how to greet a neighbor, how to discipline one's children, how to decorate the home for a holiday. A practice is a combination of concrete knowledge, a string of practical techniques, and a set of attitudes and …

Structures in Marx’s thought

The concept of a social structure has often played a large role in social theorizing. The general idea is that society consists of an ensemble of durable, regulative structures within the context of which individuals live and act. Sometimes structures are interpreted functionally: the ensemble of structures constitute a system, and discrete structures satisfy important …

Is network analysis inconsistent with agent-centered explanation?

Quite a few researchers who study dynamic social processes are making use of some of the tools of network analysis. And it is sometimes maintained that this approach is inconsistent with an agent-centered approach to social processes. Some of these researchers take the view that "it's not what is in the heads of various actors, …

Agent-based modeling as social explanation

Logical positivism favored a theory of scientific explanation that focused on subsumption under general laws. We explain an outcome by identifying one or more general laws, a set of boundary conditions, and a derivation of the outcome from these statements. A second and competing theory of scientific explanation can be called "causal realism." On this …

Large social forces?

We often analyze the world around us in terms of large social forces and trends -- globalization, the rise of ethnic identities, the spread of global capitalism, the rise of China as a coming super-power. These large forces are the "folk theories" through which we try to make sense of the world as it changes …

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