Contemporary articles citing Somers M (1998) Am J Sociol
first, second, epistemological, explain, forms, claims, yet, critical, lack, four
- Silver, Daniel & Monica Lee. 2012. "Self-relations in Social Relations." Sociological Theory. 30:4 207-237.
- This article contributes to an ongoing theoretical effort to extend the insights of relational and network sociology into adjacent domains. We integrate Simmel's late theory of the relational self into the formal analysis of social relations, generating a framework for theorizing forms of association among self-relating individuals. On this model, every ``node'' in an interaction has relations not only to others but also to itself, specifically between its ideality and its actuality. We go on to integrate this self-relation into a formal model of social relations. This model provides a way to describe configurations of social interactions defined by the forms according to which social relations realize participants' ideal selves. We examine four formal dimensions along which these self-relational relationships can vary: distance, symmetry, scope, and actualization.
- Saito, Hiro. 2011. "An Actor-network Theory of Cosmopolitanism." Sociological Theory. 29:2 124-149.
- A major problem with the emerging sociological literature on cosmopolitanism is that it has not adequately theorized mechanisms that mediate the presumed causal relationship between globalization and the development of cosmopolitan orientations. To solve this problem, I draw on Bruno Latour's actor-network theory (ANT) to theorize the development of three key elements of cosmopolitanism: cultural omnivorousness, ethnic tolerance, and cosmopolitics. ANT illuminates how humans and nonhumans of multiple nationalities develop attachments with one another to create network structures that sustain cosmopolitanism. ANT also helps the sociology of cosmopolitanism become more reflexive and critical of its implicit normative claims.
- Reed, Isaac. 2008. "Justifying Sociological Knowledge: From Realism to Interpretation." Sociological Theory. 26:2 101-129.
- In the context of calls for ``postpositivist'' sociology, realism has emerged as a powerful and compelling epistemology for social science. In transferring and transforming scientific realism-a philosophy of natural science-into a justificatory discourse for social science, realism splits into two parts: a strict, highly naturalistic realism and a reflexive, more mediated, and critical realism. Both forms of realism, however, suffer from conceptual ambiguities, omissions, and elisions that make them an inappropriate epistemology for social science. Examination of these problems in detail reveals how a different perspective-centered on the interpretation of meaning-could provide a better justification for social inquiry, and in particular a better understanding of sociological theory and the construction of sociological explanations.
- Abend, Gabriel. 2008. "The Meaning of `theory'." Sociological Theory. 26:2 173-199.
- `Theory' is one of the most important words in the lexicon of contemporary sociology. Yet, their ubiquity notwithstanding, it is quite unclear what sociologists mean by the words `theory,' `theoretical,' and `theorize.' I argue that confusions about the meaning of `theory' have brought about undesirable consequences, including conceptual muddles and even downright miscommunication. In this paper I tackle two questions: (a) what does `theory' mean in the sociological language?; and (b) what ought `theory' to mean in the sociological language? I proceed in five stages. First, I explain why one should ask a semantic question about `theory.' Second, I lexicographically identify seven different senses of the word, which I distinguish by means of subscripts. Third, I show some difficulties that the current lack of semantic clarity has led sociology to. Fourth, I articulate the question, `what ought ``theory'' to mean?,' which I dub the `semantic predicament' (SP), and I consider what one can learn about it from the theory literature. Fifth, I recommend a `semantic therapy' for sociology, and advance two arguments about SP: (a) the principle of practical reason-SP is to a large extent a political issue, which should be addressed with the help of political mechanisms; and (b) the principle of ontological and epistemological pluralism-the solution to SP should not be too ontologically and epistemologically demanding.
- Abend, G. 2006. "Styles of Sociological Thought: Sociologies, Epistemologies, and the Mexican and Us Quests for Truth." Sociological Theory. 24:1 1-41.
- Both U.S. and Mexican sociologies allege that they are in the business of making true scientific knowledge claims about the social world. Conventional conceptions of science notwithstanding, I demonstrate that their claims to truth and scientificity are based on alternative epistemological grounds. Drawing a random sample of nonquantitative articles from four leading journals, I show that, first, they assign a different role to theories, and indeed they have dissimilar understandings of what a theory should consist of. Second, whereas U.S. sociology actively struggles against subjectivity, Mexican sociology maximizes the potentials of subjective viewpoints. Third, U.S. sociologists tend to regard highly and Mexican sociologists to eagerly disregard the principle of ethical neutrality. These consistent and systematic differences raise two theoretical issues. First, I argue that Mexican and U.S. sociologies are epistemologically, semantically, and perceptually incommensurable. I contend that this problem is crucial for sociology's interest in the social conditioning of scientific knowledge's content. Second, I suggest four lines of thought that can help us explain the epistemological differences I find. Finally, I argue that sociologists would greatly profit from studying epistemologies in the same fashion they have studied other kinds of scientific and nonscientific beliefs.
- Steinmetz, G. 2004. "Odious Comparisons: Incommensurability, the Case Study, and ``small N's'' in Sociology." Sociological Theory. 22:3 371-400.
- Case studies and ``small-N comparisons'' have been attacked from two directions, positivist and incommensurabilist. At the same time, some authors have defended small-N comparisons as allowing qualitative researchers to attain a degree of scientificity, yet they also have rejected the case study as merely ``idiographic.'' Practitioners of the case study sometimes agree with these critics, disavowing all claims to scientificity. A related set of disagreements concerns the role and nature of social theory in sociology, which sometimes is described as useless and parasitic and other times as evolving in splendid isolation from empirical research. These three forms of sociological activity-comparative analysis, studies of individual cases, and social theory-are defended here from the standpoint of critical realism. In this article I first reconstruct, in very broad strokes, the dominant epistemological and ontological framework of postwar U.S. sociology. The next two sections discuss several positivist and incommensurabilist criticisms of comparison and case studies. The last two sections propose an understanding of comparison as operating along two dimensions, events and structures, and offer an illustration of the difference and relationship between the two.
- Hopcroft, RL. 2001. "Theoretical Implications of Regional Effects." Sociological Theory. 19:2 145-164.
- Local economic institutions (systems of property rights and rules of land use) influenced the course of economic change in European history, as well as state formation and religious change. In this paper, I outline the theoretical implications of these regional effects. None of our existing macrolevel theories and explanations of the ``rise of the West'' can adequately incorporate them, so I present an alternative theory, based on rational choice premises. Yet the existence of these regional effects also highlights the deficiencies of a rational choice theoretical approach. First, the approach is unable to explain historical contexts, institutional legacies, or the effects of timing, which were vital for outcomes of social change but that lie outside the model itself. Second, although it can be very useful, the model of the actor motivated by material self-interest often proved inadequate in historical situations. Solutions are suggested.
- Zafirovski, M. 2000. "The Rational Choice Generalization of Neoclassical Economics Reconsidered: Any Theoretical Legitimation for Economic Imperialism?." Sociological Theory. 18:3 448-471.
- The article reconsiders the generalization of neoclassical economics by modern rational choice theory. Hence, it reexamines the possible theoretical grounds or lack thereof within neoclassical economics for economic imperialism implied in much of rational choice theory. Some indicative instances of rational choice theory's generalization of neoclassical economics are reviewed. The main portion of the article addresses the question as to whether neoclassical economics allows its generalization in rational choice theory and thus legitimizes economic imperialism. Presented are a number of pertinent theoretical reasons why neoclassical economics does not fully justify ifs generalization into rational choice as a general social theory particularly into an over-arching economic approach to social action and society Also discussed are some theoretical implications of the rational choice generalization of neoclassical economics. The main contribution of the article is to defect lack of a strong theoretical rationale in much of neoclassical economics for rational choice theory's manifest or latent economic imperialism.