, Volume 21, Issue 10, pp 1545-1565

Analytical Sociology: A Bungean Appreciation

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Abstract

Analytical sociology, an intellectual project that has garnered considerable attention across a variety of disciplines in recent years, aims to explain complex social processes by dissecting them, accentuating their most important constituent parts, and constructing appropriate models to understand the emergence of what is observed. To achieve this goal, analytical sociologists demonstrate an unequivocal focus on the mechanism-based explanation grounded in action theory. In this article I attempt a critical appreciation of analytical sociology from the perspective of Mario Bunge’s philosophical system, which I characterize as emergentist systemism. I submit that while the principles of analytical sociology and those of Bunge’s approach share a lot in common, the latter brings to the fore the ontological status and explanatory importance of supra-individual actors (as concrete systems endowed with emergent causal powers) and macro-social mechanisms (as processes unfolding in and among social systems), and therefore it does not stipulate that every causal explanation of social facts has to include explicit references to individual-level actors and mechanisms. In this sense, Bunge’s approach provides a reasonable middle course between the Scylla of sociological reification and the Charybdis of ontological individualism, and thus serves as an antidote to the untenable “strong program of microfoundations” to which some analytical sociologists are committed.