Methodological Individualism

Methodological individualism is the doctrine that macrolevel social phenomena such as the economy, the crime rate, and the state should be explained or understood entirely in terms of the purposive actions of individual agents. It is “methodological” in that it prescribes how social scientific inquiry ought to proceed; the “individualism” is its insistence that explanations should, at least ultimately, appeal only to facts about individuals’ beliefs, intentions, and attitudes. In contrast, methodological collectivism or holism contends that at least some social phenomena can be understood adequately only at a macroscopic or holistic level, such as when explanations are given in terms of “supraindividual” entities and systems such as corporations, social classes, and capitalism itself. In one form or another, methodological individualism has been at ...

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