Social causality

Inquiry 31 (2):151 – 170 (1988)
Abstract
This paper combines a phenomenological account of the types of causal transaction found in social reality with a critique of two theories, one structuralist and one Marxist, that contravene it. Part I argues that there are three types of causal transaction in social life in addition to physical causal transactions: people bringing about states of affairs by acting, states of affairs bringing about actions by inducing responses, and entities and states of affairs bringing about what makes sense to people to do by making certain factors determine this. It is also contended that social formations and structures cause actions and other social formations/structures only by way of participating in these types of transaction. The conditions under which this occurs are discussed. Part II criticizes Peter Blau's account of structural effects and Jean?Paul Sartre's version of a materialist theory of history, two theories that either advocate or require causal transactions between social structures/ formations which do not reduce to transactions of the types described in Part I. The paper concludes by suggesting that social entities that make actions possible do not thereby cause them
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