Microfoundations for rules and ascriptions

One of the more convincing arguments for the existence of social facts that lie above the level of individual actors is the social reality of rules and ascriptive identities. Bob and Alice are married by Reverend Green at 7 pm, July 1, 2015. The social fact that Bob and Alice are now married is not …

Relations, processes, and activities

An earlier post asked what sorts of social entities exist. Posing the question this way leads us to think of persistent abstract things populating the social world -- for example, structures, organizations, or institutions. But as a commentator to the earlier post pointed out, there are persistent phenomena in the social world that don't look …

The difference ontology makes

Quite a few posts here over the past few months have been on the subject of social ontology: what can we say about the nature of the social world? I've focused on characteristics like heterogeneity, plasticity, and contingency, and have also given thought to some of the processes through which social phenomena are "composed" of …

Piecemeal empirical assessment of social theories

The philosophy of science devotes a large fraction of its wattage to this question: what is the logic of empirical confirmation for scientific beliefs? (A good short introduction is Samir Okasha, Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction.) In the natural sciences this question became entangled with the parochial fact about the natural sciences, that …

Is there such a thing as capitalism?

Marx's central theoretical concept is "capitalism." He wanted to provide a theory of the capitalist mode of production; he wanted to discover the laws of motion of the capitalist mode of production; and he believed that there was a compact structural identity that is shared by capitalist economies. Later Marxist economists refined the concept somewhat …

Aggregating social trends

Would we say that discerning and aggregating social trends is an important kind of social knowledge? What about explaining social trends? What is a social trend, anyway?Suppose people notice that crimes are getting less frequent but more violent; or that Thai restaurants are replacing Chinese restaurants at the bottom end in Chicago; or that young …

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