An introduction to the analysis of individualists

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An introduction to the analysis of individualists

However, the theoretical elaboration of the doctrine is due to Weber, and Schumpeter uses the term as a way of referring to the Weberian view.

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In Economy and Society, Weber articulates the An introduction to the analysis of individualists precept of methodological individualism in the following way: Thus we talk about them having plans, performing actions, suffering losses, and so forth.

For Weber, the commitment to methodological individualism is very closely related to the commitment to verstehende or interpretive patterns of explanation in sociology.

Updating the terminology somewhat, we can say that the defining characteristic of an action is that it is motivated by a mental state with propositional content, i. Action-theoretic explanation is central to social-scientific analysis, therefore, because without knowing why people do what they do, we do not really understand why any of the more large-scale phenomena with which they are embroiled occur.

Thus methodological individualism is a slightly misleading term, since the goal is not to privilege the individual over the collective in social-scientific explanation, but rather to privilege the action-theoretic level of explanation.

This privileging of the action-theoretic level is methodological because it is imposed by the structure of interpretive social science, where the goal is to provide an understanding of social phenomena.

Actions can be understood in a way that other social phenomena cannot, precisely because they are motivated by intentional states. Yet only individuals possess intentional states, and so the methodological privileging of actions entails the methodological privileging of individuals.

This is what defenders to the doctrine have tried to communicate, with greater or lesser degrees of success, by claiming that it is politically or ideologically neutral.

Many writers claim to find the origins of methodological individualism amongst economists of the Austrian School especially Carl Mengerand doctrines articulated during the Methodenstreit of the s Udehn The atomistic view is based upon the suggestion that it is possible to develop a complete characterization of individual psychology that is fully pre-social, then deduce what will happen when a group of individuals, so characterized, enter into interaction with one another.

Methodological individualism, on the other hand, does not involve a commitment to any particular claim about the content of the intentional states that motivate individuals, and thus remains open to the possibility that human psychology may have an irreducibly social dimension.

Thus one way of accentuating the difference between atomism and methodological individualism is to note that the former entails a complete reduction of sociology to psychology, whereas the latter does not.

Historical explanation may make reference to the actual content of the intentional states that motivated particular historical actors, but the sociologist is interested in producing much more abstract explanatory generalizations, and so cannot appeal to the specific motives of particular individuals.

Thus sociological theory must be based upon a model of human action. And because of the constraints that interpretation imposes, this model must be a model of rational human action Weber writes: The work of Talcott Parsons in the first half of the century was the most important in this regard, with the unification movement reaching its apogee in the collaborative publication in of Toward a General Theory of Action, co-edited by Parsons and Edward Shils.

Yet shortly thereafter, partly due to problems with the unification program, Parsons abandoned his commitment to both methodological individualism and action theory, adopting a purely systems-theoretic view. Of course, this tradition has not always been in the ascendancy within the economics profession.

Similarly, many have tried to discover correlations between macroeconomic variables, such as unemployment and inflation rates, without feeling the need to speculate as to why a change in one rate might lead to movement in the other.

One of the earliest iterations of this debate occurred during the so-called Methodenstreit between members of the Austrian School in Economics and the German Historical School.

It was only members of the second generation, first and foremost Friedrich von Hayek, who would explicitly identify themselves with the Weberian doctrine of methodological individualism and defend it through reference to the demands of interpretive social science.

This leads many economists to eschew any reference to intentional states and to focus purely upon statistical correlations between economic variables.

The problem with this focus is that it leaves the economic phenomena unintelligible. Take, for example, the movement of prices. One might notice a constant correlation between the date of the first frost and fluctuations in the price of wheat.

But we do not really understand the phenomenon until it has been explained in terms of the rational actions of economic agents: It is important to note, however, that while Hayek has a model of rational action as the centerpiece of his view, his is most emphatically not a form of rationalism.

On the contrary, he puts particular emphasis upon the way that various economic phenomena can emerge as the unintended consequences of rational action. Even though the outcomes that people achieve may bear no resemblance to the ones that they intended, it is still important to know what they thought they were doing when they chose to pursue to course of action that they chose — not least because it is important to know why they persist in pursuing that course of action, despite the fact that it is not producing the intended consequences.

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All that they can see are changes in the immediate prices that they must pay for production inputs or consumption goods, and this is what they respond to. The large-scale consequences of the choices they make in response to these changes are largely unintended, and so any regularity in these consequences constitutes a spontaneous order.

One person works his way through, choosing the route that offers the least local resistance. His passage reduces, ever so slightly, the resistance offered along that route to the next person who walks though, who is therefore, in making the same set of decisions, likely to follow the same route.In-depth interviews, focus groups, and/or analysis of content sources as the source of its data.

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Methodological Individualism - Sociology - Oxford Bibliographies

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An introduction to the analysis of individualists

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Feb 19,  · IAT D Suyawen Hao Introduction When people think about the American culture, images of Coca-Cola, hot dogs and baseball games come to mind. However there is a deeper side to American culture than Hollywood and Disney World. Individualism is a core of American culture and the main value in America.

It has been influencing all the fields of society, economics, .

An introduction to the analysis of individualists

Introduction. From the start, there have been, in philosophy and the social sciences, a number of debates about the proper way to analyze social phenomena. Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that emphasizes the moral worth of the individual. Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance and advocate that interests of the individual should achieve precedence over the state or a social group, while opposing external interference upon one's.

An introduction and an analysis of ethical egoism in pursuit of self interest