Methodological Individualism and Holism in Political Science: A Reconciliation

American Political Science Review 107 (4):629-643 (2013)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Abstract
Political science is divided between methodological individualists, who seek to explain political phenomena by reference to individuals and their interactions, and holists (or nonreductionists), who consider some higher-level social entities or properties such as states, institutions, or cultures ontologically or causally significant. We propose a reconciliation between these two perspectives, building on related work in philosophy. After laying out a taxonomy of different variants of each view, we observe that (i) although political phenomena result from underlying individual attitudes and behavior, individual-level descriptions do not always capture all explanatorily salient properties, and (ii) nonreductionistic explanations are mandated when social regularities are robust to changes in their individual-level realization. We characterize the dividing line between phenomena requiring nonreductionistic explanation and phenomena permitting individualistic explanation and give examples from the study of ethnic conflicts, social-network theory, and international-relations theory.
Reprint years
2013
PhilPapers/Archive ID
LISMIA
Upload history
Archival date: 2016-08-17
View other versions
Added to PP index
2013-11-07

Total views
450 ( #9,571 of 51,321 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
53 ( #10,156 of 51,321 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.