Many approaches, but few arrivals: Merton and the columbia model of theory construction

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 39 (2):174-211 (2009)
Robert Merton's essays on theories of the middle range and his essays on functional explanation and the structural approach are among the most influential in the history of sociology. But their import is a puzzle. He explicitly allied himself with some of the most extreme scientistic formalists and contributed to and endorsed the Columbia model of theory construction. But Merton never responded to criticisms by Ernest Nagel of his arguments or acknowledged the rivalry between Lazarsfeld and Herbert Simon, rarely cited the philosophical and methodological literature, and responded to critics with ambiguous concessions, leaving the Mertonian legacy profoundly ambiguous. Key Words: Robert Merton • Paul Lazarsfeld • theory construction • middle range theory • causal modeling • Émile Durkheim.
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