Individualism and Holism in the Social Sciences

In Nathalie Bulle & Francesco Di Iorio (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Methodological Individualism: Volume I. Springer Verlag. pp. 103-115 (2023)
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The structure of explanation for methodological individualism (MI) can be represented by the expression M = M [m(P)] where the global phenomenon M results from a set of stylized individual behaviors m resulting from motivations which are themselves affected by global data P. In this, MI differs from holistic methodology in that it takes into account the individual (generally ideal–typical) reasons underlying these collective phenomena, and refuses, in principle, to treat a group as an actor endowed with a conscience and a will, or to describe the individual as the crossing point of collective forces. Boudon gives several examples showing that the individualist paradigm and the rationality hypothesis it includes (according to which the actors’ reasons are, in principle, comprehensible by the observer as a function of their situation) enables sociological explanation to progress and avoid the dreaded trap of sociocentrism.



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