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Cinta de moebio

versión On-line ISSN 0717-554X


GONZALEZ, Felipe. Social mechanisms and their relationship with the micro-macro distinction. Cinta moebio [online]. 2016, n.55, pp.16-28. ISSN 0717-554X.

The notion of social mechanisms has experienced an increasing use in the social sciences as an alternative explanatory framework to the logic of co-variation present in multivariate analyses, emphasizing the causal explanation of social phenomena over their mere description. This paper seeks two goals. In the one hand, summarise recent literature on social mechanisms in order to clarify their meanings, different modes of use and their contribution to empirical research. In the other hand, we will shed some light onto the relation between social mechanisms and the micro-macro problem in social sciences. We argue that the search for social mechanisms and reductionism in social sciences correspond to two interrelated but analytically distinguishable questions: while the first one seeks to define intermediary processes and causal connections between causes and effects, the second question asks for the different levels of reality in which the relation between initial conditions and effects shall be understood. Following Daniel Little´s methodological localism, we will suggest that social mechanisms can well take place at the supra-individual level, and that the reduction of social phenomena to their micro-foundations is not a methodological prescription, but rather depends on the state of art of specific fields of inquiry.

Palabras clave : social mechanisms; explanation; social sciences; reductionism; explanatory autonomy.

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