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Meanings of methodological individualism

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  • Geoffrey M. Hodgson

Abstract

Advocacy of 'methodological individualism' is widespread, especially among economists. However, the term is rarely defined with adequate precision and some crucial ambiguities are explored in this article. Among these is the commonplace ambivalence over whether explanations should be in terms of individuals alone, or in terms of individuals plus relations between them. It is shown that a great deal hinges on this subtle and often overlooked distinction in explanantia. In particular, explanations in terms of individuals alone have never, as yet, been achieved. Furthermore, the more feasible version of explanations in terms of individuals plus relations between them amounts to the introduction of social structure alongside individuals in the explanantia. Serious questions remain whether this version warrants the one-sided emphasis on individuals in the term 'methodological individualism'. JEL Classifications: B20, B40, B41

Suggested Citation

  • Geoffrey M. Hodgson, 2007. "Meanings of methodological individualism," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(2), pages 211-226.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:14:y:2007:i:2:p:211-226
    DOI: 10.1080/13501780701394094
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    Keywords

    methodological individualism; social relations; social structures; Joseph Schumpeter;

    JEL classification:

    • B20 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - General
    • B40 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - General
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology

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