This 1996 book defends the prospects for a science of society. It argues that behind the diverse methods of the natural sciences lies a common core of scientific rationality that the social sciences can and sometimes do achieve. It also argues that good social science must be in part about large-scale social structures and processes and thus that methodological individualism is misguided. These theses are supported by a detailed discussion of actual social research, including theories of agrarian revolution, organizational ecology, social theories of depression, and supply-demand explanations in economics. Professor Kincaid provides a general picture of explanation and confirmation in the social sciences and discusses the nature of scientific rationality, functional explanation, optimality arguments, meaning and interpretation, the place of microfoundations in social explanation, the status of neo-classical economics, the role of idealizations and non-experimental evidence, and other specific controversies.
1. Issues and arguments; 2. Challenges to scientific rationality; 3. Causes, confirmation, and explanation; 4. Functionalism defended; 5. The failures of individualism; 6. A science of interpretation?; 7. Economics: a test case; 8. Problems and prospects.