Structural realism and the social sciences

Philosophy of Science 75 (5):720-731 (2008)
After sorting different structuralist claims, I argue that structural realist ideas are instantiated in the social sciences, providing both clarification of social science research and support for some components of structural realism. My main focus is on three distinct ways that the social sciences can be about structural relations—exemplified by claims about social structure, reduced form structures in causal modeling, and equilibrium explanations—and on the implication of structuralist ideas for thinking about issues concerning causal explanation and nonreductive pictures of the unity of the science. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, 900 13th Street South, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294; e‐mail:
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DOI 10.1086/594517
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