article from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
This doctrine was introduced as a methodological precept for the social sciences by Max Weber, most importantly in the first chapter of Economy and Society (1968 ). It amounts to the claim that social phenomena must be explained by showing how they result from individual actions, which in turn must be explained through reference to the intentional states that motivate the individual actors. It involves, in other words, a commitment to the primacy of what Talcott Parsons would later call “the action frame of reference” (Parsons 1937: 43-51) in social-scientific explanation. It is also sometimes described as the claim that explanations of “macro” social phenomena must be supplied with “micro” foundations, ones that specify an action-theoretic mechanism (Alexander, 1987).
A contrast is often drawn, following J.W.N. Watkins (1952a), between methodological individualism and methodological holism. This is usually tendentious, since there are very few social scientists who describe themselves as methodological holists. There are, however, forms of social-scientific explanation with more active adherents that methodological individualism precludes or downgrades. These include, most importantly, functionalism, many types of sociobiology, “memetics” or evolutionary cultural explanation, psychoanalytic and “depth hermeneutic” methods, and any form of explanatory generalization grounded in purely statistical analysis.
Defenders of methodological individualism generally claim that it is an innocent doctrine, devoid of any political or ideological content. Weber himself cautioned that “it is a tremendous misunderstanding to think that an ‘individualistic’ method should involve what is in any conceivable sense an individualistic system of values” (Weber 1968: 18). Nevertheless, the doctrine of methodological individualism became embroiled in a number of highly politicized debates during 20th century, largely because it was often invoked as a way of discrediting historical materialism. There were two distinct rounds of controversy on this score. The first occurred primarily during ‘50s, in response to the work of Friedrich von Hayek and Karl Popper. The second round occurred during the ‘80s, in response to Jon Elster, this time as part of critical debates within the movement known as “analytical Marxism.” During the latter period, methodological individualism became widely associated with what many called “rational choice imperialism.”
The phrase methodische Individualismus was actually coined by Weber's student, Joseph Schumpeter, in his 1908 work Das Wesen und der Hauptinhalt der theoretischen Nationalökonomie. The first use of the term “methodological individualism” in English was again by Schumpeter in his 1909 Quarterly Journal of Economics paper, “On the Concept of Social Value” (see Udehn 2001, 214). However, the theoretical elaboration of the doctrine is due to Weber, and Schumpeter uses the term as a way of referring to the Weberian view.
In Economy and Society, Weber articulates the central precept of methodological individualism in the following way: When discussing social phenomena, we often talk about various “social collectivities, such as states, associations, business corporations, foundations, as if they were individual persons”(Weber 1968, 13). Thus we talk about them having plans, performing actions, suffering losses, and so forth. The doctrine of methodological individualism does not take issue with these ordinary ways of speaking, it merely stipulates that “in sociological work these collectivities must be treated as solely the resultants and modes of organization of the particular acts of individual persons, since these alone can be treated as agents in a course of subjectively understandable action” (Weber 1968, 13).
For Weber, the commitment to methodological individualism is very closely related to the commitment to verstehende (or interpretive) patterns of explanation in sociology. The reason for privileging individual action in sociological explanation is that only action is “subjectively understandable.” Weber reserves the term “action” to refer to the subset of human behavior that is motivated by linguistically formulated or “meaningful” mental states. (Generally speaking: coughing is behavior, apologizing afterwards is action.) Updating the terminology somewhat, we can say that the defining characteristic of an action is that it is motivated by a mental state with propositional content, i.e., an intentional state. The importance of action for Weber is that we have interpretive access to it, by virtue of our capacity to understand the agent's underlying motive. This permits the social scientist to “accomplish something which is never attainable in the natural sciences, namely the subjective understanding of the action of the component individuals” (Weber 1968, 15). Action-theoretic explanation is central to social-scientific analysis, therefore, because without knowing why people do what they do, we do not really understand why any of the more large-scale phenomena with which they are embroiled occur.
Thus methodological individualism is a slightly misleading term, since the goal is not to privilege the individual over the collective in social-scientific explanation, but rather to privilege the action-theoretic level of explanation. This privileging of the action-theoretic level is methodological because it is imposed by the structure of interpretive social science, where the goal is to provide an understanding of social phenomena. Actions can be understood in a way that other social phenomena cannot, precisely because they are motivated by intentional states. Yet only individuals possess intentional states, and so the methodological privileging of actions entails the methodological privileging of individuals. Thus the “individualism” in methodological individualism is more a byproduct of its central theoretical commitment than a motivating factor. This is what defenders to the doctrine have tried to communicate, with greater or lesser degrees of success, by claiming that it is politically or ideologically neutral.
It is worth emphasizing the difference between methodological individualism, in Weber's sense, and the older traditions of atomism (or unqualified individualism) in the social sciences. Many writers claim to find the origins of methodological individualism amongst economists of the Austrian School (especially Carl Menger), and doctrines articulated during the Methodenstreit of the 1880s (Udehn 2001). Others trace it back to Thomas Hobbes, and the “resolutive-compositive” method elaborated in the opening sections of the Leviathan (Lukes 1968, 119). Yet the distinctive character of this type of atomism was summed up quite clearly by Hobbes, with his injunction to “consider men as if but even now sprung out of the earth, and suddainly (like Mushromes) come to full maturity without all kind of engagement to each other” (1949 , 8:1). The atomistic view is based upon the suggestion that it is possible to develop a complete characterization of individual psychology that is fully pre-social, then deduce what will happen when a group of individuals, so characterized, enter into interaction with one another. Methodological individualism, on the other hand, does not involve a commitment to any particular claim about the content of the intentional states that motivate individuals, and thus remains open to the possibility that human psychology may have an irreducibly social dimension. Thus one way of accentuating the difference between atomism and methodological individualism is to note that the former entails a complete reduction of sociology to psychology, whereas the latter does not.
Finally, it should be noted that Weber's commitment to methodological individualism is closely related to his more well-known methodological doctrine, viz., the theory of ideal types. Historical explanation may make reference to the actual content of the intentional states that motivated particular historical actors, but the sociologist is interested in producing much more abstract explanatory generalizations, and so cannot appeal to the specific motives of particular individuals. Thus sociological theory must be based upon a model of human action. And because of the constraints that interpretation imposes, this model must be a model of rational human action (Weber writes: “it is convenient to treat all irrational, affectually determined elements of behavior as factors of deviation from a conceptually pure type of rational action” [1968, 6].)
Thus one of the most important consequences of Weber's methodological individualism is that it puts rational action theory at the core of social-scientific inquiry. This is why subsequent generations of social theorists, under Weber's influence, sought to bring about the methodological unification of the social sciences by producing what came to be known as a “general theory of action” – one that would broaden the economic model of action in such a way as to incorporate the central action-theoretic insights of (primarily) sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists. The work of Talcott Parsons in the first half of the century was the most important in this regard, with the unification movement reaching its apogee in the collaborative publication in 1951 of Toward a General Theory of Action, co-edited by Parsons and Edward Shils. Yet shortly thereafter, partly due to problems with the unification program, Parsons abandoned his commitment to both methodological individualism and action theory, adopting a purely systems-theoretic view. This led to an overall lapse in the project of producing a general theory of action, until it was revitalized in 1981 by the publication of Jürgen Habermas's The Theory of Communicative Action.
It has never escaped anyone's attention that the discipline that most clearly satisfies the strictures of methodological individualism is microeconomics (in the tradition of neoclassical marginalism), and that homo economicus is the most clearly articulated model of rational action. Of course, this tradition has not always been in the ascendancy within the economics profession. In particular, there are many who have felt that macroeconomics could be a completely self-standing domain of inquiry (reflected in the fact that the undergraduate economics curriculum is still often divided into “micro” and “macro.”) There have always been those who would like to plot the movements of the business cycle, or of the stock market, in a way that disregards entirely the motives that individual actors may have for doing what they do. Similarly, many have tried to discover correlations between macroeconomic variables, such as unemployment and inflation rates, without feeling the need to speculate as to why a change in one rate might lead to movement in the other. Thus there has always been a very lively debate within the economics profession about the value of the “rational actor” model that is at the heart of general equilibrium theory.
One of the earliest iterations of this debate occurred during the so-called Methodenstreit between members of the Austrian School in Economics and the German Historical School. Most theorists of the Austrian School, however, like Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises, were pure atomists. It was only Friedrich von Hayek who explicitly identified himself with the Weberian doctrine of methodological individualism, and defended it through reference to the demands of interpretive social science. The key text is his paper, “Scientism and the Study of Man,” serialized in Economica (1942-44), and later published as the first part of The Counter-Revolution of Science (1955).
In Hayek's view, the desire on the part of social scientists to emulate the physical sciences creates an exaggerated fear of teleological or “purposive” concepts. This leads many economists to eschew any reference to intentional states and to focus purely upon statistical correlations between economic variables. The problem with this focus is that it leaves the economic phenomena unintelligible. Take, for example, the movement of prices. One might notice a constant correlation between the date of the first frost and fluctuations in the price of wheat. But we do not really understand the phenomenon until it has been explained in terms of the rational actions of economic agents: an early frost reduces yields, leading to less intense price competition among suppliers, more among consumers, etc. Thus Hayek insists that, in effect, all macroeconomic analysis is incomplete in the absence of “micro” foundations.
It is important to note, however, that while Hayek has a model of rational action as the centerpiece of his view, his is most emphatically not a form of rationalism. On the contrary, he puts particular emphasis upon the way that various economic phenomena can emerge as the unintended consequences of rational action. Even though the outcomes that people achieve may bear no resemblance to the ones that they intended, it is still important to know what they thought they were doing, when they chose to pursue to course of action that they chose – not least because it is important to know why they persist in pursuing that course of action, despite the fact that it is not producing the intended consequences.
Of course, part of Hayek's motivation for endorsing methodological individualism and demanding that social-scientific explanations specify a mechanism at the action-theoretic level is that he wants to emphasize the limitations of the individual's actor's perspective. It's fine to talk about macroeconomic variables like “the inflation rate,” but it is important to remember that individual actors (generally speaking) do not respond directly to such indicators. All that they can see are changes in the immediate prices that they must pay for production inputs or consumption goods, and this is what they respond to. The large-scale consequences of the choices they make in response to these changes are largely unintended, and so any regularity in these consequences constitutes a spontaneous order. This is a crucial element of Hayek's information-based argument for capitalism: economic actors do not have access to the same information as economic theorists, thus it is only when we see the operations of the economy through their eyes that we can begin to see the advantages of a decentralized system of coordination like the market.
To illustrate the importance of the individual's perspective, Hayek gives the example of the process that leads to the development of a path in the woods. One person works his way through, choosing the route that offers the least local resistance. His passage reduces, ever so slightly, the resistance offered along that route to the next person who walks though, who is therefore, in making the same set of decisions, likely to follow the same route. This increases the chances that the next person will do so, and so on. Thus the net of effect of all these people passing through is that they “make a path,” even though no one has the intention to do so, and no one even plans out its trajectory. It is a product of spontaneous order: “Human movements through the district come to conform to a definite pattern which, although the result of deliberate decisions of many people, has yet not been consciously designed by anyone” (Hayek 1942, 289).
The problem with ignoring the agent's perspective, in Hayek's view, is that it can easily lead us to overestimate our powers of rational planning and control, and thus to fall into “rationalism.” By contrast, the central virtue of methodological individualism is that it helps us to see the limitations of our own reason (Hayek 1944, 33). Formulating theories that refer directly to the “interest rate,” or “inflationary pressures,” or “the unemployment rate” can mislead us into thinking that we can manipulate these variables, and thus intervene successfully in the economy. We forget that these concepts are abstractions, used not to guide individual action, but rather to describe the net effect of millions of individual decisions. The key characteristic of methodological individualism is that it “systematically starts from the concepts which guide individuals in their actions and not from the results of their theorizing about their actions”(1942, 286). It therefore encourages, in Hayek's view, greater modesty with respect to social planning.
Hayek does not mention methodological individualism after the 1950s. Indeed, the role that evolutionary explanations come to play in his later work implies a tacit retraction of his commitment to the doctrine.
For many years, the term methodological individualism was associated primarily with the work of Karl Popper. This is due to the extensive debate triggered by Popper's papers, “The Poverty of Historicism” (1944/45), and later his book, The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945). Popper, however, although making use of the term, did little to defend his commitment to it. Instead he left this job to his former student, J.W.N. Watkins. It was this debate between Watkins and his critics that (perhaps unfairly) solidified the association in many people's minds between Popper and methodological individualism. (It was also this debate that brought the doctrine to the widespread attention of philosophers.)
Unfortunately, the version of methodological individualism that Popper bequeathed to his student Watkins was considerably more difficult to defend than the one he inherited from Hayek. Since the beginning, the precepts of methodological individualism were thought to have been imposed by the special requirements of the social sciences. For both Weber and Hayek, it was the reflection of a key difference between the Geisteswissenschaften and the Naturwissenschaften. Popper, however, denies that there are any significant methodological differences between the two. Indeed, his initial discussion of methodological individualism in “The Poverty of Historicism,” occurs in a section called “The Unity of Method,” in which he claims that both are simply in the business of “causal explanation, prediction and testing.”(1945, 78). He goes on to deny that “understanding” plays any special role in the social sciences.
The problem that this creates for the doctrine of methodological individualism is relatively immediate. A social science that aims at interpretation, or that uses interpretation as part of the centerpiece of its explanatory strategy, has a very clear methodological reason for privileging explanations that refer to individual actions – since it is precisely the underlying intentional states that serve as the object of interpretation. But if social scientists are merely in the business of providing causal explanations, just like natural scientists, then what is the rationale for privileging individual actions in these explanations? There no longer appears to be any methodological reason for doing so. Thus critics like Leon Goldstein (1958), and later Steven Lukes (1968), would argue that methodological individualism was actually just an oblique way of asserting a commitment to metaphysical or ontological individualism. In other words, Popper's “methodological individualism” was actually a claim about what the world “really” consisted of, little more than a fancy way of saying “there is no such thing as society.” Watkins went on to reinforce this impression by reformulating the thesis as the claim that the “ultimate constituents of the social world are individual people” (1957, 105).
Watkins also provoked doubts about the methodological status of the principle by distinguishing between “unfinished or half-way explanations” of social phenomena, which might not specify an action-theoretic or individualistic mechanism, and so-called “rock-bottom explanations,” which would (1957, 106). Yet in so doing, he grants that these half-way explanations (the example he gives is the relationship between inflation and the unemployment rate), while they may not tell us everything we would like to know, need not be meaningless or false. This creates problems, as Lars Udehn points out, since the mere fact that one can explain social phenomena in terms of individuals “does not imply the methodological rule that they should be explained this way” (2001, 216) – especially not if the “half-way” knowledge obtained is sufficient for our (extra-scientific) purposes.
Finally, it should be noted that Popper introduced a contrast between methodological individualism and “psychologism,” viz., the view that “all laws of social life must be ultimately reducible to the psychological laws of ‘human nature’”(1945, 89). Nevertheless, in Popper's formulation, methodological individualism does appear equivalent to at least some form of psychological reductionism. At very least, his formulation – at later Watkins's – left many commentators confused about how one could affirm the former without committing to the latter (Udehn 2001, 204).
For both Hayek and Popper, the primary motivation for respecting the precepts of methodological individualism was to avoid “grand theory” in the style of Auguste Comte, G.W.F. Hegel and Karl Marx. Yet the motivation for avoiding this sort of grand theory was not so much that it promoted bad theory, but that it promoted habits of mind, such as “collectivism,” “rationalism,” or “historicism,” that were thought to be conducive to totalitarianism. Thus the sins of “collectivism,” and “collectivist” thought patterns, for both Hayek and Popper, were primarily political. Yet as time wore on, and the dangers of creeping totalitarianism in Western societies became increasingly remote, the fear of collectivism that underlay the debates over methodological individualism became increasingly attenuated.
Thus the concern over methodological individualism began to fade away, and might have disappeared completely had it not been for the sudden explosion of interest in game theory (or “rational choice theory”) among social scientists in the 1980s. The reason for this can be summed up in two words (and an article): the prisoner's dilemma. Social scientists had always been aware that individuals in groups are capable of getting stuck in patterns of collectively self-defeating behavior. Paul Samuelson's “The Pure Theory of Public Expenditure” (1954), Garrett Hardin's “The Tragedy of the Commons,” (1968), and Mancur Olson's The Logic of Collective Action (1965), had all provided very clear examples of cases where the mere existence of a common interest among individuals nevertheless failed to provide them with an incentive to perform the actions necessary to realize that interest. What the story of the prisoner's dilemma – and more importantly, the accompanying game matrix – provided was a simple yet powerful model that could be used to represent the structure of all these interactions (see R. Hardin 1982).
This in turn gave renewed impetus to methodological individualism, because it allowed theorists to diagnose with unparalleled precision the errors that social theorists could be (and often were) led into if they ignored the action-theoretic level of analysis. Methodological individualism became important, not as a way of avoiding the political thought-crime of “collectivism,” but rather as a way of avoiding demonstrably fallacious inferences about the dynamics of collective action. For example, the traditional “interest group” theory of democratic politics generally presupposes that groups who share a common interest also have an incentive to promote that interest, by lobbying politicians, funding research, and so on. Olson's major contribution was to have driven home the point that the existence of such a common interest just as often generates a free-rider incentive. Individuals would benefit from acting to promote that interest, but they would benefit even more by sitting back while the other members of the group acted to promote it. As a result, no one may act to promote it. However, Olson confined this observation to large groups. The prisoner's dilemma, on the other hand, demonstrated the ubiquity of this incentive structure.
Jon Elster's contribution to the history of methodological individualism must be understood against this background. He presents the doctrine as part of a friendly yet trenchant critique of the use of functionalist explanations in the Marxist tradition; particularly those that seek to explain events as ones that “serve the interests of capital.” The problem with these explanations, Elster argues, is that they “postulate a purpose without a purposive actor” (1982, 452), and therefore (he claims) entail a commitment to some form of objective teleology. In itself, there is very little new in this criticism. As G.A. Cohen argued, in his response to Elster, there is no reason that the Marxian functionalist cannot provide “elaborations” (Cohen 1982, 131) of these explanations, ones that specifies how the benefit produced evokes the phenomenon, without reference to any objective teleology. This could be done either by appealing an intentional mechanism at the action-theoretic level or else a Darwinian “selection” mechanism (Cohen 1982, 132). In such cases, Elster's critique of functional explanation becomes just another version of Watkins's demand for “rock-bottom” rather than “half-way” explanations.
Thus what made Elster's attack so forceful was not the accusation of objective teleology in Marxist theory, but rather the suggestion that much of Marxian “class analysis” overlooked the potential for collective action problems among the various world-historical actors. Consider, for example, the familiar claim that capitalists retain a “reserve army of the unemployed” in order to depress wages. This means that individual capitalists must stop hiring new workers at a point where marginal benefits still exceed the marginal costs. What is their incentive for doing so? They have an obvious free-rider incentive to keep hiring, since the benefits stemming from depressed wages would largely be enjoyed by rival firms, whereas the benefits of further hiring would flow to the bottom line. In other words, the mere fact that it is in the “interests of capital” to have a reserve army of the unemployed does not mean that individual capitalists have an incentive to take the steps necessary to maintain such a reserve army.
An even more disturbing consequence of the “rational choice” perspective is the observation that the working class faces a major collective action problem when it comes to carrying out the socialist revolution (Elster 1982, 467). Fomenting revolution can be dangerous business, and so absent some other incentive (such as class solidarity), even workers who were convinced that a communist economic order would offer them a superior quality of life might still fail to show up at the barricades. Yet these possibilities were largely overlooked, Elster suggests, because a failure to respect the precepts of methodological individualism, along with the promiscuous use of functional explanation, had led generations of Marxian theorists simply to ignore the actual incentives that individuals face in concrete social interactions.
Beyond the critique of functional explanations, Elster does not advance any original argument in support of methodological individualism. He does, however, return to the earlier Weberian formulation of the position, with its emphasis on intentional action (Elster 1982, 463): “The elementary unit of social life is the individual human action,” he argues. “To explain social institutions and social change is to show how they arise as the result of the actions and interaction of individuals. This view, often referred to as methodological individualism, is in my view trivially true” (Elster, 1989, 13). Here one must assume that when he says “trivially true,” he is using the term in the vernacular sense of “platitudinous” rather than the philosophical sense of “tautologous,” since he goes on to derive a number of very substantive doctrines from his commitment to methodological individualism. For example, he goes on to claim at various points that methodological individualism commits him to psychologistic reductionism with respect to sociology (although he does not offer an argument for this claim).
Elster does not draw as sharp a distinction as he might have between the commitment to methodological individualism and the commitment to rational choice theory. Indeed, he also assumes that the latter flows directly from the former. The version of rational choice theory that Elster endorses, however, is one that is based upon a traditional instrumental (or homo economicus) conception of rationality, according to which “actions are valued and chosen not for themselves, but as more or less efficient means to the a further end” (Elster 1989, 22). He claims that this conception of rationality is implied by the fact that decision theorists are able to represent the rational actions of any agent possessing a well-behaved preference ordering as the maximization of a utility function. Yet whether utility-maximization implies instrumentalism depends upon the version of expected utility theory that one subscribes to. So-called “world Bayesian” versions of decision theory, such as Richard Jeffrey's (1983) do not impose an instrumental conception of rationality, since they permit agents to have preferences over their own actions. Thus Elster's move from methodological individualism to the instrumental conception of rationality is based upon a non sequitur.
Nevertheless, as a result of Elster's arguments, methodological individualism became synonymous in many quarters with the commitment rational choice theory. Such an equation generally fails to distinguish what were for Weber two distinct methodological issues: the commitment to providing explanations at an action-theoretic level, and the specific model of rational action that one proposes to use at that level (i.e., the ideal type). There are multiple permutations. For instance, there is no reason that one cannot be a methodological individualist while choosing to employ Habermas's theory of communicative action rather than rational choice theory as the model of rational action. In fact, this would make greater sense, since game theory, strictly construed, has never purported to offer a general theory of rational action. The Nash solution concept, which provides the standard definition of a game-theoretic equilibrium, specifically excluded all forms of communication between the players (and the solution does not work in cases where communication does intrude [Heath 2001]). Thus much of the furor over rational choice imperialism has been based upon a failure to appreciate the limitations of that model (in many cases both by its defenders and its critics).
In the philosophy of mind, the phrase “methodological individualism” is commonly associated with a claim made by Jerry Fodor concerning the individuation of psychological states (1980, 1987, 42). It is important to emphasize that Fodor's use of the term has nothing in common with its traditional use in the philosophy of social science. Fodor introduces it by way of a distinction between “methodological individualism” and “methodological solipsism.” His goal is to deal with variations on the twin-earth problem, introduced by Hilary Putnam. The question is whether an individual with a belief about water on earth, where water is made up of H2O, has the same belief as an individual with a belief about water in a parallel universe, where water has the same appearance and behavior, but happens to be made up of XYZ. The “externalist” is one who says that they are not the same, whereas an “internalist” like Fodor wants to say that they are – speaking roughly, that the content of beliefs is determined by what is in the agent's head, and not what is in the world.
The issue comes down to one concerning the individuation of mental states. How do we determine what is and is not the “same” belief? Fodor begins by introducing the constraint that he calls “methodological individualism,” viz., “the doctrine that psychological states are individuated with respect to their causal powers” (1987, 42). This implies, among other things, that if one psychological state is incapable of causing anything different to happen than some other psychological state, then the two must be the same. “Methodological solipsism” is the stronger claim that “psychological states are individuated without respect to the semantic evaluations” (1987, 42). This implies, among other things, that even if one state is “true” in some context and another is “false,” the two may still turn out to be the same. As Fodor goes on to point out, the semantic evaluation of a mental state will typically be relational, e.g. whether certain beliefs about water are true will depend upon how things happen to stand with water in the world; thus methodological solipsism has the consequence of precluding one type of relational property from playing a role in the individuation of mental states. It is therefore “individualistic” in the everyday sense of the term, since it suggests that what's going on in the agent's head does most or all of the work in the individuation of mental states. Methodological individualism, on the other hand, “does not prohibit the relational individuation of mental states; it just says that no property of mental states, relational or otherwise, counts taxonomically unless it affects causal powers”(1987, 42). Thus it is very unclear why Fodor chooses to call this a form of “individualism,” since these relations could also be relations to other speakers, and not just the physical word.
There is considerable infelicity in Fodor's choice of terms. He is able to offer a cogent account of why methodological individualism counts as a methodological constraint. He argues that the desire to align terminological distinctions with objects having different causal powers is “one which follows simply from the scientist's goal of causal explanation and which, therefore, all scientific taxonomies must obey” (1987, 42). Thus it is a methodological precept. (Although one can see clearly here the stark contrast between Fodor's use of the term and that of Weber or Hayek, for whom the ability of the social scientist to provide something beyond merely causal explanation was what imposed the methodological commitment to the action-theoretic level of analysis.) It is simply unclear why Fodor chooses to call it individualism. With methodological solipsism, on the other hand, one can see why he calls it solipsism, but it is unclear what makes it methodological. Indeed, Fodor goes on to state that “solipsism (construed as prohibiting the relational taxonomy of mental states) is unlike individualism in that it couldn't conceivably follow from any general considerations about scientific goals and practices. ‘Methodological solipsism’ is, in fact, an empirical theory about the mind.”(1987, 43). Thus in Fodor's use of the terms, “methodological individualism” is not really individualistic, and “methodological solipsism” is not really methodological.
Much of the critical discussion of methodological individualism in the philosophy of social science concerns the relationship between what Watkins called “rock-bottom” explanations and “half-way” ones – or those that do and those that do not specify an action theoretic mechanism. In general, there is no question that, given any particular half-way explanation of a social phenomenon, it would always be nice to know what agents are thinking, when they perform the actions that are involved in the production of that phenomenon. The question is whether the explanation is somehow deficient, or unscientific, in the absence of this information. The answer to that question will depend upon one's broader commitments concerning the status and role of the social sciences. Nevertheless, it is worth noting two very common types of social-scientific inquiry that fall short of providing the sort of rock-bottom explanations that methodological individualism demands:
6.1 Statistical analysis
Consider the following example of a social-scientific debate: During the 1990s, there was a precipitous decline in violent crime in the United States. Many social scientists naturally began to apply themselves to the question of why this had occurred, i.e., they set out to explain the phenomenon. A number of different hypotheses were advanced: the hiring of more police, changes in community policing practices, more severe sentencing guidelines for offenders, decreased tolerance for minor infractions, an increase in religiosity, a decline in the popularity of crack, changes in the demographic profile of the population, etc. Since the decline in crime occurred in many different jurisdictions, each using some different combination of strategies under different circumstances, it is possible to build support for different hypotheses through purely statistical analysis. For example, the idea that policing strategies play an important role is contradicted by the fact that New York City and San Francisco adopted very different approaches to policing, and yet experienced a similar decline in the crime rate. Thus a very sophisticated debate broke out, with different social scientists producing different data sets, and crunching the numbers in different ways, in support of their rival hypotheses.
This debate, like almost every debate in criminology, lacks microfoundations. It would certainly be nice to know what is going through people's mind when they commit crimes, and thus how likely various measures are to change their behavior, but the fact is we do not know. Indeed, there is considerable skepticism among criminologists that a “general theory” of crime is possible. Nevertheless, we can easily imagine criminologists deciding that one particular factor, such as a demographic shift in the population (i.e., fewer young men), is the explanation for the late-20th century decline in violent crime in the United States, and ruling out the other hypotheses. And even though this may be a “half-way” explanation, there is no question that it would represent a genuine discovery, one that we could learn something important from.
Furthermore, it is not obvious that the “rock-bottom” explanation – the one that satisfies the precepts of methodological individualism – is going to add anything very interesting to the “half-way” explanation provided by the statistical analysis. In many cases it will even be derived from it. Suppose that we discovered, through statistical analysis, that the crime rate varied as a function of the severity of punishment multiplied by the probability of apprehension. We would then infer from this that criminals were rational utility-maximizers. On the other hand, if studies showed that crime rates were completely unaffected by changes in the severity of punishments or the probability of apprehension, we would infer that something else must be going on at the action-theoretic level.
Results at the action-theoretic level might also prove to be random or uninteresting, from the standpoint of the explanatory variables. Suppose it turns out that the decline in crime can be explained entirely by demographic change. Then it doesn't really matter what the criminals were thinking – what matters is simply that a certain percentage of any given demographic group has the thoughts that lead to criminal behavior, so fewer of those people translates into less crime. The motives remain inside the “black box” – and while it might to nice to know what those motives are, they may not contribute anything to this particular explanation. In the end, it may turn out that each crime is as unique as the criminal. So while there is a concrete explanation in terms of actual people's intentional states, there is nothing that can be said at the level of a general “model” of rational action. (In this context, it is important to remember that methodological individualism in the Weberian sense explains actions in terms of a model of the agent, not the actual motivations of the real people.)
6.2 Subintentional explanations
Consider another social-scientific debate, this time the controversy over the data showing that stepparents have a far greater propensity to kill very young children in their care than biological parents. What would be involved in providing a rock-bottom explanation for this phenomenon, one that satisfied the precepts of methodological individualism? How informative would this be? It does not take much effort to imagine what people are thinking, when they shake a baby or hit a toddler. The motives are all-too familiar – almost everyone experiences episodes of intense frustration or anger when dealing with children. But that clearly does not explain the phenomenon. The question is why one group systematically fails to exercise control over these violent impulses, relative to some other group. Since very few people do it as part of a well-conceived plan, it is not clear that there is going to be an explanation available at the level of intentional states, or even that a complementary account of what is going on at this level will be in the least bit informative. The problem is that the behavior is generated by biases that function almost entirely at a subintentional level (Sperber, 1997). This suggests that an explanation in terms of intentional states is not really “rock bottom,” but that there are deeper layers to be explored.
It is not difficult to imagine how such an explanation might run. People experience a reaction to juvenile (or neotenous) characteristics of the young that is largely involuntary. This reaction is very complex, but one of its central characteristics is the inhibition of aggression. People are also quite poor at articulating the basis of this reaction, other than by repeated references to the fact that the child is “cute.” Of course, the overall strength of this reaction varies from individual to individual, and the particular strength varies with different children. Thus it is possible that biological parents simply find their own children “cuter” than stepparents do, and that this translates into a slightly lower average propensity to commit acts of aggression against them. Because they are unable to articulate the basis of this judgment, any analysis at the intentional level will simply fail to provide much in the way of an explanation for their actions.
Furthermore, it would seem that much “deeper” explanations of these behavioral tendencies are available. Most obviously, there is an evolutionary account available, which explains parental investment in terms of inclusive fitness (and also explains “new mate infanticide” in terms of sexual selection). Because of this, proponents of methodological individualism are open to the charge that they are promoting half-way explanations, and that the evolutionary perspective offers rock-bottom ones. More generally, any theory that purports to explain the origin of our intentional states in terms of deeper underlying causes, or that claims to explain much of human behavior without reference to intentional states (such as Freudianism, which treats many of our beliefs as rationalizations, our desires as sublimations), will be unmoved by the methodological individualist's demand that pride of place be assigned to explanations formulated at the action-theoretic level.
The primary methodological goal, among social scientists, for adopting a commitment to methodological individualism was to caution against certain fallacies (ones that were quite common in 19th century social science). Perhaps the greatest of these fallacies was the one based on a widespread tendency to ignore the potential for collective action problems in groups, and thus to move far too easily “down” from an identification of a group interest to the ascription of an individual interest. One way of avoiding such fallacies was to force social scientists to look always at interactions from the participant's perspective, to see what sort of preference structure governed his or her decisions.
At the same time, it is worth noting that too much emphasis on the action-theoretic perspective can generate its own fallacies. One of the most powerful resources of sociological inquiry is precisely the capacity to objectivate and aggregate social behavior using large-scale data collection and analysis. Furthermore, the analysis of social phenomena at this level can often generate results that are counterintuitive from an action-theoretic perspective. Too much emphasis on the action-theoretic perspective, because of its proximity to common sense, can generate false assumptions about what must be going on at the aggregate level. As Arthur Stinchcombe observes in his classic work, Constructing Social Theories, constructing “demographic explanations” of social phenomena often requires a break with our everyday interpretive perspective. Too much focus upon individual attitudes can lead us to make illegitimate generalizations about the characteristics of these attitudes in groups (1968, 67). For example, the stability of a belief in a population only very rarely depends upon its stability in individuals. There can be considerable volatility at the individual level, but so long as it runs with equal force both ways, its prevalence in the population will be unchanged (68). If ten per cent of the population loses their faith in God every year, yet ten per cent have a conversion experience, then there will be no change in the overall level of religiosity. This may seem obvious, but as Stinchcombe observes, it is “intuitively difficult for many people” (67), and inattention to it is a common source of fallacious sociological thinking.
It is also worth nothing that the action-theoretic level of analysis, with its focus upon the intentional states of the agent, can generate considerable mischief when combined haphazardly with evolutionary reasoning. The most common fallacy arises when theorists treats the “self-interest” of the individual, defined with respect to his or her preferences, as a stand-in for the “fitness” of a particular behavior (or phenotype), at either the biological or the cultural level, then assumes that there is some selection mechanism in place, again at either the biological or cultural level, that will weed out forms of behavior that fail to advance the individual's self-interest. The problem is that neither biological nor cultural evolution function in this way. It is an elementary consequence of “selfish gene” theory that biological evolution does not advance the interests of the agent (the most conspicuous example being inclusive fitness). For similar reasons, cultural evolution benefits the “meme” rather than the interests of the agent (Stanovich 2004). Thus the evolutionary perspective imposes a much greater break with the rationality-based perspective than many social theorists appreciate. Thus methodological individualism can sometimes impede the sort of radical objectivation of social phenomena that the use of certain sociotheoretic models or tools requires.
· Alexander, Jeffry. 1987. The Micro-Macro Link. Berkeley: University of California Press.
· Cohen, G. A. 1982. “Functional explanation: Reply to Elster,” Political Studies 28 (1):129-135.
· Elster, Jon. 1982. “The Case for Methodological Individualism,” Theory and Society, 11: 453-482.
· -----. 1985. Making Sense of Marx. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
· -----. 1989. Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
· Fodor, Jerry. 1980. “Methodological Solipsism Considered as a Research Strategy in Cognitive Science,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3: 63-73
· -----. 1987. Psychosemantics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
· Goldstein, Leon. 1958. “The Two Theses of Methodological Individualism,” The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 9: 1-11.
· Habermas, Jürgen. 1984/87. The Theory of Communicative Action, 2 vols. trans. Thomas McCarthy, Boston: Beacon Press.
· Hardin, Garrett. 1968. “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science, 162: 1243-1248
· Hardin, Russell. 1982. Collective Action. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
· Hayek, Friedrich von. 1942. “Scientism and the Study of Man I,” Economica, 9: 267-91
· -----. 1943. “Scientism and the Study of Man II,” Economica, 10: 34-63.
· -----. 1944. “Scientism and the Study of Man III,” Economica, 11: 27-39.
· -----. 1955. The Counter-Revolution of Science. New York: Free Press.
· Heath, Joseph. 2001. Communicative Action and Rational Choice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
· Hobbes, Thomas. 1949. De Cive, or the Citizen. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
· Jeffrey, Richard. 1983. The Logic of Decision, 2nd edn. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
· Lukes, Steven. 1968. “Methodological Individualism Reconsidered,” The British Journal of Sociology, 19:2, 119-129.
· Olson, Mancur. 1965. The Logic of Collective Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
· Parsons, Talcott. 1937. The Structure of Social Action, 2 vols. New York: Free Press.
· Parsons, Talcott, and Edward Shils, eds. 1951. Toward a general theory of action. New York: Harper & Row.
· Popper, Karl. 1944a. “The Poverty of Historicism I,” Economica, 11: 86-103.
· -----. 1944b. “The Poverty of Historicism II,” Economica, 11: 119-137.
· -----. 1945. “The Poverty of Historicism III,” Economica, 11: 69-89.
· -----. 1966. The Open Society and Its Enemies. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
· Samuelson, Paul A. 1954. “The Pure Theory of Public Expenditure,” Review of Economics and Statistics, 36: 387–89
· Schumpeter, Joseph. 1908. Das Wesen und der Hauptinhalt der theoretischen Nationalökonomie, Leipzig: Duncker & Humbolt.
· -----. 1909. “On the Concept of Social Value,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 23: 213-32.
· Sperber, Dan. 1997. “Individualisme méthodologique et cognitivisme,” in R. Boudon, F. Chazel & A. Bouvier (eds.) Cognition et sciences sociales. Paris: Presse Universitaires de France, pp 123-136.
· Stanovich, Keith. 2004. The Robot's Rebellion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
· Stinchcombe, Arthur. 1968. Constructing Social Theories. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.
· Udehn, Lars. 2001. Methodological Individualism. London: Routledge.
· Watkins, J.W.N. 1952a. “Ideal Types and Historical Explanation,” The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 3, 22-43.
· -----. 1952b. “The Principle of Methodological Individualism,” The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 3, 186-189.
· -----. 1955. “Methodological Individualism: A Reply,” Philosophy of Science, 22, 58-62.
· -----. 1957. “Historical Explanation in the Social Sciences,” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 8, 104-117.
· Weber, Max. 1968. Economy and Society, ed. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich, Berkeley: University of California Press.
article by Dr.Carl Ratner
Methodological Individualism vs. Holism
This entry speaks to the nature of the individual element. Individualism says that the individual element is an independent entity that has self-contained properties, though, of course, it draws on resources around it. An example is the popular idea that the individual is responsible for his/her own fate. Your success and failure depend ultimately on how hard you work.
Holism says that the individual element is inextricably tied to other individuals. Individuals are interdependent, and they are internally related in the sense that each is imbued with, and constituted by, the qualities of others. An example is a child in a family. The child's psychology depends utterly on the way he/she is treated. Any intrinsic tendencies are modulated and mediated by experience. From this perspective, the child is not entirely responsible for his/her behavior.
Holism regards individuals or elements as reciprocally influencing each other. The child affects the family while being affected by it. This dialectical relation of individuals/elements comprises a system, or a whole. The whole is composed of individuals and affected by them. It is not independent of individuals. However, the whole is not simply a sum of independent individuals sequentially summed together, one after the other (see the entry on reductionism). The whole is more than the sum of the parts.
Solomon Asch explains the holistic nature of social interactions in the case of two boys carrying a log. The boys adjust their actions to each other and to the object. The two do not apply force separately. There is a unity of action that embraces the participants and the common object. This performance is a new product, unlike what each participant would do singly and also unlike the sum of their separate exertions. What each contributes is a function of his relation to the other, how the other acts. The other's actions lead to changes in the self's behavior. Self is permeated by other. Larger social units, such as teams and institutions, manifest other kinds of emergent properties.
Emergence is central to holism. It denotes the fact that the whole is different from the sum of the individual constituents. This whole then affects the qualities of the constituents. They are not self-sufficient, independent qualities.
These examples illustrate how the two approaches construe the nature, or existence, of the individual. These ontological perspectives of individualism and holism entail corresponding epistemologies, or ways of acquiring knowledge.
An ontology that construes individual elements as self-contained and self-determining, and as combining arithmetically to form groups, necessarily insists that knowledge of things consists of reducing complexity to simple, separate individual elements --e.g., a group is simply a collection of individuals co-existing. An ontology that construes elements as part of a system of relations that constitute them, insists that knowledge of things requires understanding elements as complex, multifaceted entities that are dialectically related to other things and embody their features.
Individualistic and holistic ontologies and epistemologies also entail distinctive methodologies.
Methodological individualism is the hallmark of positivism. Positivism construes phenomena as simple, homogeneous, separate, variables. A variable is defined as qualitatively invariant, and only quantitatively variable. The reason it is qualitatively invariant is because it is separate from other variables. This prevents others from imbuing it with their qualities, altering its quality, and complicating it. Intelligence, depression, aggression, and all other psychological phenomena are construed as separate variables with simple, fixed qualities.. Only their degree varies in different conditions. This ontology leads positivists to concentrate on measuring quantities of variables. They eschew investigating, or theorizing about, their qualities which are taken for granted as obvious, simple, and fixed.
Methodological individualism is also evident in positivistic instruments such as questionnaires. Each item on a questionnaire is a separate (discrete) element that supposedly taps a discrete psychological attribute. Items are randomly presented in order to prevent any association among them that would bias the subject away from responding to each one independently. In addition, each response is treated as a separate element that is accorded equal weight, and can be summed with the others. Sums are indifferent to the order of the elements. 5 + 3 + 1 is the same sum as 1 + 3 + 5. Sums presume that items are independent of each other, and that a 5 at the beginning is the same as a 5 at the end of a sequence. Of course, responses are statistically correlated together (e.g., in factor analysis). However, it is a correlation of separate, independent items.
One might suppose that methodological individualism, or atomism, is the basis of positivistic methodology, while holism is the basis of qualitative methodology. However, this would be a simplification. In fact, individualism is pervasive in qualitative research, along with holism.
Individualism in qualitative methodology takes the form of treating individual subjects as self-contained individuals who create their own meanings and behaviors. Researchers focus on recording and reporting individuals' subjective accounts. They do not attempt to understand an individual's subjectivity as influenced by other people and conditions. (see entry on subjectivism).
This is characteristic of a good deal of discourse analysis. While some analysts relate discourse to cultural values and practices, many emphasize discourse as an invention of the individual speaker. Margaret Wetherell and Jonathan Potter advocate this position.
It appears in Wetherell's analysis of 17-year old boys' sexuality. She analyzes the discourse Aaron had with his friends about a weekend during which he slept with four girls. At one point, his friend Paul wondered whether Aaron had deliberately set out to have lots of sex ("out on the pull") that weekend. Wetherell analyses the conversation as follows:
What I wish to note is Paul's new description of Aaron's activities as "out on the pull". This account seems to be heard [by Aaron] as an uncalled for accusation in relation to the events of Friday night and Aaron and Phil issue denials ä in attempting to reformulate and minimize the actions so described -- `just out as a group of friends'. (Wetherell, 1998, p. 399).
Wetherell construes dialogue as a way that individuals represent themselves to each other and themselves. She focuses on the mechanics of how individuals accomplish this: Paul describes Aaron, Aaron hears the description, he responds. This methodology does not go beyond identifying sequential conversational acts. It does not utilize long patterns of dialogue to interpret statements, code them, organize them, make inferences or deductions from them concerning psychological or cultural issues. This restriction conforms to discourse theory that speech is an invention that expresses the individual, it is not a reflection of cultural or psychological processes. Wetherell is not interested in the nature of Aaron's sexual desire -- i.e., whether it is impersonal, egocentric, loving, considerate, domineering, instrumental, etc. -- and how these sexual qualities might reflect macro cultural factors. She is concerned with how individuals voluntaristically present sex in discourse.
Holistic methodology is only found in qualitative methodology. It does not appear in positivism.
One of the most important applications of holism in qualitative methodology is Dilthey's hermeneutics. (see entry on objectivism). The central idea is that the psychological significance of any behavioral expression can only be discerned by relating that response to other
responses. The significance of a response is not transparent in a single behavior. For example, to know whether a remark is a joke or an insult, you must situate it in a context of other comments, the speaker's countenance, and other behaviors. By itself, the comment is ambiguous. The context disambiguates the element.
This relating of behaviors in order to disclose psychological phenomena is known as the hermeneutic circle.
If we want to hermeneutically interpret the psychology of a mother who spanks her child, we must know how the child acted before he was spanked, how the mother behaves toward him in other situations, what she says to him during and after the spanking, how she behaves toward him after the spanking, her facial expression during the spanking, how she explains the spanking to her husband and friends, etc. Only this complex configuration of related behaviors reveals whether her spanking was motivated by concern for the child's well-being, hatred for the child, revenge against the child, or by frustration which was provoked by an event unrelated to the child.
Similarly, the cognitive processes which enable a student to perform well on a math test is only known by observing her extended solution to several math problems in different situations. Test performance may express a number of psychological phenomena. It may reflect the student's ability to memorize material, it may reflect test taking ability, anxiety, or mathematical reasoning. Which of these possibilities is operative is only disclosed by observing the pattern of steps which the pupil takes to solve problems in different situations.
Kurt Goldstein used a hermeneutic analysis to diagnose neurological deficits. He observed the pattern of responses by which patients match a colored stimulus with objects of similar color. Normal and impaired subjects often find the same number of objects that match the hue of the stimulus; however their pattern of responses is quite different. The patient proceeds sequentially by first matching the stimulus to an object that most closely resembles it (O1), then matching another object (O2) to (O1), then matching (O3) to (O2), and so on. In contrast, normal subjects compare each color directly with the stimulus color. The qualitative difference in the behavioral patterns reveals the patient's deficit.
This is a hermeneutical, holistic analysis because it examines patterns of interrelated responses which indicate the quality and significance of each. The fact that O3 is matched to O2 rather than to the stimulus hue makes it a different (impaired) kind of response and indicates it to be a different kind of response. Hermeneutic methodology that elucidates patterns is holistic. In contrast, counting the number of correct matches, and comparing the sums for normals and patients obscures patterns and the qualitative differences of responses within them. As we have mentioned, sums of responses are indifferent to their order and their interrelationship. A sum treats each response as separate and independent. Sums are individualistic forms of methodology, while patterns are holistic.
The highest form of methodological holism not only elucidates patterns of behaviors among individuals, it additionally recognizes the internal relationship between psychological phenomena and cultural phenomena. This cultural-hermeneutical interpretation of psychology was actually the crux of nineteenth century German hermeneutics. It has been largely overlooked as hermeneuticists focus on the behaviors of individuals apart from culture. However, Dilthey maintained that the interpretation of meaning belongs to the larger science of history. To understand means to understand historically. It means to understand that psychological phenomena such as self concept, sexuality, motivation, reasoning, memory, emotions, perception, mental illness, and developmental processes are integral components of macro cultural factors such as institutions, artifacts, and cultural concepts, and embody their features. Cultural hermeneutics elucidates this cultural quality of psychological phenomena, as Carl Ratner explains in his writings.
In their current forms, holism and individualism approach psychological phenomena very differently, and are antithetical. However, a synthesis is possible. This cannot be an eclectic, unprincipled, combining together. For this would combine weaknesses as well as strengths. Nor can the synthesis take the form of a golden mean that is in between the extremes. For that negates the strengths of the positions by watering them down with their opposites.
A workable synthesis requires a reformulation that makes holism and individualism logically consistent through a set of common principles. Lev Vygotsky explained what this involves. He said that an analysis of complex patterns into units is necessary and workable. It requires construing the part as embodying qualities of related parts, patterns, wholes. This reformulates the individualistic concept of an element as an independent entity with a self-contained quality. It makes the unit logically consistent with its holistic existence, internally related to other units.
Vygotsky (1987, p. 46-47) explained this as follows: "A psychology concerned with the study of the complex whole must replace the method of decomposing the whole into its elements with that of partitioning the whole into its unitsä in which the characteristics of the whole are present." "In contrast to the term `element,' the term `unit' designates a product of analysis that possesses all the basic characteristics of the wholeäThe living cell is the real unit of biological analysis because it preserves the basic characteristics of life that are inherent in the living organism."
These units can be studied, counted, and added. The benefits of analysis can thus be integrated into methodological holism. This enables holism to become a precise, rigorous, scientific approach. It loses its pejorative connotation as a mystical, ineffable, impractical methodology.
Asch, S. (1952). Social psychology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Goldstein, K. (1948). Language and language disturbance. Grune & Stratton.
Ratner, C. (1997). Cultural psychology and qualitative methodology. New York: Plenum.
Ratner, C. (2002). Cultural psychology: Theory and method. New York: Plenum.
Ratner, C. (2006). Cultural psychology: A perspective on psychological functioning and social reform. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Ratner, C. (2007a). Cultural psychology and qualitative methodology: Scientific and political considerations. Culture and Psychology, 2007, 13,
Ratner, C. (2007b). A macro cultural-psychological theory of emotions. In P. Schultz, & R. Pekrun (Eds.). Emotions in Education (chap. 6). Academic Press.
Ratner, C. (2007c). Contextualism versus Positivism in Cross-Cultural Psychology. In G. Zheng, K. Leung, & J.Adair (Eds), Perspectives and progress in contemporary cross-cultural psychology. Beijing: China Light Industry Press.
Sayers, S. (2007). Individual and society in Marx and Hegel: Beyond the communitarian critique of liberalism. Science and Society, 71, 84-102.
Vygotsky, L.S. (1987). Collected works, vol. 1. New York: Plenum.
Wetherell, M. (1998). Positioning and interpretative repertoires: Conversation analysis and post-structuralism in dialogue. Discourse & Society, 9, 387-412.
methodological individualism,explanation and invariance-Daniel Steel
article by Kaushik Basu
Meanings of Methodological Individualism-Geoffrey M. Hodgson