Dissecting the Social: On the Principles of Analytical by Peter Hedstrom

By Peter Hedstrom

Development on his past influential contributions to modern debates on social concept, Peter Hedstrom argues for a scientific improvement of sociological conception in order that it has the explanatory energy and precision to notify sociological study and understanding--qualities missing in a lot of the grand social theorizing at the moment trendy.

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The questions refer to a difference between different entities – in these examples between men and women, Social mechanisms and explanatory theory 21 different time periods, and different nations, respectively – and the answers given are typically based on breaking down the relevant population into different subpopulations. 1 may be required. In order to explain the observed difference in the average earnings between men and women, the population is decomposed. First we decompose it into four different groups based on gender and education, and we examine the average earnings within each of these groups.

Such mechanism-based explanations are at the core of the analytical approach, and the rest of this book is, in one way or another, concerned with explicating and refining this type of explanatory approach. 12 The core idea behind the mechanism approach is that we explain not by evoking universal laws, or by identifying statistically relevant factors, but by specifying mechanisms that show how phenomena are brought about. g. Bhaskar 1978; Bunge 1996; Elster 1999; Gambetta 1998; Glennan 1996; Hedstro¨m and Swedberg 1998b; Karlsson 1958; Little 1991; Mahoney 2001; Mayntz 2004; Mcadam, Tarrow and Tilly 2001; Pawson 2000; Salmon 1984; Schelling 1998).

The belief that one should be able to ‘read off’ their causes by observing relationships between variables such as those discussed above has always seemed a bit naı¨ve to me. Rather than trying to establish ‘phenomenophenomenological laws’ on the basis of statistical analyses, Boudon’s suggestion (1976: 117) that we should ‘go beyond the statistical relationships to explore the generative mechanism responsible for them’ seems to be a more promising path forward, and it is the one pursued in chapter 6.

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