INDIVIDUALISM, COLLECTIVE AGENCY AND THE “MICRO-MACRO RELATION”

Abstract : The significance of methodological individualism (MI) in social science is one of the most classical issues in the philosophy of social science and. Nowadays it is customary to set in opposition to methodological holism, although this expression (introduced by Watkins, 1957 is much less common than “holism,” which might be much more appropriate. This has replaced the notion of “collectivism,” which was sometimes used in the middle of the twentieth century (O’Neill, 1973); but this notion was still much more misleading. Not only did it carry a possible political meaning but also because political concerns were really core elements of certain viewpoints (notably Hayek, 1988; Popper, 1945), despite there being no logical link between the epistemological and the political issues. I shall, however, leave aside here this political dimension. I claim that what is at stake, generally speaking, when one speaks of “holism” is a complex and confused intuition that might not still have been completely exhausted by advocates of analytic methods, more than a specific methodology, but such that its specificity is constantly reduced as analytic methods are becoming more and more integrative.Certain important issues are currently tackled without specific reference to the notion of holism (a fortiori collectivism), such as many debates on collective behavior, collective action, collective agency, collective intentionality, etc. However the main issues are basically the same: to what extent is collective action proper understood not only (that means: is not reducible to) a mere sum of individual actions? And how can collective action properly understood result or emerge from these individual actions? In this specific context, discussions are focused just on action and the dynamic aspects of social life more than discussions about holism are (those notably include an analysis of collective beliefs not specifically oriented towards action). In other words, the question is to know whether there is an ontological specificity of a certain kind of collective action compared to individual action, such that its account would require a proper concept: the concept of collective agency
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Ian Jarvie and Jesus Zamora. Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science, Sage Publications, 2011
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Alban Bouvier. INDIVIDUALISM, COLLECTIVE AGENCY AND THE “MICRO-MACRO RELATION”. Ian Jarvie and Jesus Zamora. Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science, Sage Publications, 2011. 〈ijn_01081493〉

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