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Methodological individualism and holism in political science: a reconciliation

List, Christian; Spiekermann, Kai
Fonte: Cambridge University Press for the American Political Science Association Publicador: Cambridge University Press for the American Political Science Association
Tipo: Article; PeerReviewed Formato: application/pdf
Publicado em /11/2013 Português
Relevância na Pesquisa
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Political science is divided between methodological individualists, who seek to explain political phenomena by reference to individuals and their interactions, and holists (or non-reductionists), who consider some higher-level social entities or properties such as states, institutions, or cultures ontologically or causally significant. We propose a reconciliation between these two perspectives, building on related work in philosophy. After laying out a taxonomy of different variants of each view, we observe that (i) although political phenomena result from underlying individual attitudes and behaviour, individual-level descriptions do not always capture all explanatorily salient properties, and (ii) non-reductionistic explanations are mandated when social regularities are robust to changes in their individual-level realization. We characterize the dividing line between phenomena requiring non-reductionistic explanation and phenomena permitting individualistic explanation and give examples from the study of ethnic conflicts, social-network theory, and international-relations theory.