Mechanisms are very much a part of social life. For example, we can see that inequality has tended to increase over time, and that cities can become segregated. But how do such mechanisms work? Analytical sociology is an influential approach to sociology which holds that explanations of social phenomena should focus on the social mechanisms that bring them about. This book evaluates the major features of this approach, focusing on the significance of the notion of mechanism. Leading scholars seek to answer a number of questions in order to explore all the relevant dimensions of mechanism-based explanations in social sciences. How do social mechanisms link together individual actions and social environments? What is the role of multi-agent modelling in the conceptualization of mechanisms? Does the notion of mechanism solve the problem of relevance in social sciences explanations?
Pierre Demeulenaere is Professor of Sociological Theory and Philosophy of the Social Sciences at the University of Paris-Sorbonne.
Introduction Pierre Demeulenaere; Part I. Action and Mechanisms: 1. Ordinary rationality: the core of analytical sociology Raymond Boudon; 2. Indeterminacy of emotional mechanisms Jon Elster; 3. A naturalistic ontology for mechanistic explanations in the social sciences Dan Sperber; 4. Conversation as mechanism: emergence in creative groups Keith Sawyer; Part II. Mechanisms and Causality: 5. Generative process model building Thomas J. Fararo; 6. Singular mechanisms and Bayesian narratives Peter Abell; 7. The logic of mechanismic explanations in the social sciences Michael Schmid; 8. Social mechanisms and explanatory relevance Petri Ylikoski; 9. Causal regularities, action and explanation Pierre Demeulenaere; Part III. Approaches to Mechanisms: 10. Youth unemployment: a self-reinforcing process? Yvonne Aberg and Peter Hedstroem; 11. Neighborhood effects, causal mechanisms, and the social structure of the city Robert J. Sampson; 12. Social mechanisms and generative explanations: computational models with double agents Michael W. Macy with Damon Centola, Andreas Flache, Arnout van de Rijt and Robb Willer; 13. Relative deprivation in silico: agent-based models and causality in analytical sociology Gianluca Manzo.