Methodological individualism

Inquiry 33 (1):69 – 80 (1990)
Abstract
The doctrine of methodological individualism is clarified and different versions of it are distinguished. The main thesis of the article is that methodological individualism is either a false doctrine or else a doctrine compatible with functionalism, structuralism, and Marxism. Positively it is maintained that, for all we know, collective entities such as power structures may shape our beliefs and values; these beliefs and values may explain some of our actions and expectations. These actions and expectations, together with similar actions and expectations of other people, caused in a similar fashion, may in turn constitute social phenomena. This means that, for all we know, in our best explanations of some social phenomena we may well need to have recourse to collective entities.
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