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Mechanisms in the analysis of macro-social phenomena

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  • Mayntz, Renate

Abstract

The paper is a contribution to a forthcoming special issue of the Journal Philosophy of the Social Sciences, edited by Andreas Pickel. The term (social) mechanism can be found frequently in recent social science literature, but only few authors have attempted to spell out systematically what exactly the term refers to. The paper begins by trying to close this gap. Use of the term (social) mechanism is the hallmark of an approach that is critical of the emphasis on correlational analysis, and on the covering-law model of explanation. The term mechanism, it is argued, should be used to refer to recurrent processes generating a specific kind of outcome or event; mechanism statements are accordingly statements about recurrent processes. Explanation of social macro phenomena by mechanisms typically involves causal regression to lower level elements, as stipulated by methodological individualism. But while we already have a good-sized tool-box of mechanism models at hand to explain emergent effects of different forms of collective behavior, we lack a similarly systematic treatment of generative mechanisms where structural configurations and corporate actor constellations play the decisive role in the production of an effect.

Suggested Citation

  • Mayntz, Renate, 2003. "Mechanisms in the analysis of macro-social phenomena," MPIfG Working Paper 03/3, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:mpifgw:033
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    File URL: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/44259/1/644403012.pdf
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    1. Hoover, Kevin D., 1990. "The Logic of Causal Inference: Econometrics and the Conditional Analysis of Causation," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(02), pages 207-234, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kaven, Carsten, 2010. "Soziale Mechanismen im akteurzentrierten Institutionalismus: Eine Kritik," Discussion Papers 19, University of Hamburg, Centre for Economic and Sociological Studies (CESS/ZÖSS).
    2. Rimisp, 2008. "Investigación Aplicada de Dinámicas Territoriales Rurales en América Latina: Marco Metodológico. Versión 2," Working papers 002, Rimisp Latin American Center for Rural Development.
    3. Barbara Fulda, 2015. "Culture’s Influence: Regionally Differing Social Milieus and Variations in Fertility Rates," Working Papers id:6998, eSocialSciences.

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