The advancement of social theory requires an analytical approach that systematically seeks to explicate the social mechanisms that generate and explain observed associations between events. These essays, written by prominent social scientists, advance criticisms of current trends in social theory and suggest alternative approaches. The mechanism approach calls attention to an intermediary level of analysis in between pure description and story-telling, on the one hand, and grand theorizing and universal social laws, on the other. For social theory to be of use for the working social scientist, it must attain a high level of precision and provide a toolbox from which middle range theories can be constructed.
Acknowledgements; List of contributors; 1. Social mechanisms: an introductory essay Peter Hedstroem and Richard Swedberg; 2. Social mechanisms and social dynamics Thomas C. Schelling; 3. A plea for mechanisms Jon Elster; 4. Real virtuality Gudmund Hernes; 5. Concatenations of mechanisms Diego Gambetta; 6. Do economists use social mechanisms to explain? Tyler Cowen; 7. Social mechanisms of dissonance reduction Timur Kuran; 8. Social mechanisms without black boxes Raymond Boudon; 9. Is sociological theory too grand for social mechanisms? Axel van den Berg; 10. Theoretical mechanisms and the empirical study of social processes Aage B. Sorensen; 11. Monopolistic competition as a mechanism: corporations, universities, and nation-states in competitive fields Arthur L. Stinchcombe; 12. Rational imitation Peter Hedstroem; Indexes.