Contemporary articles citing Kiser E (1998) Am J Sociol

choice, sociological, rational, historical, second, change, first, why, yet, does

Reed, Isaac. 2008. "Justifying Sociological Knowledge: From Realism to Interpretation." Sociological Theory. 26:2 101-129. Link
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. Link
`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.

Hopcroft, RL. 2001. "Theoretical Implications of Regional Effects." Sociological Theory. 19:2 145-164. Link
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. Link
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.

Kiser, E. 1999. "Comparing Varieties of Agency Theory in Economics, Political Science, and Sociology: an Illustration From State Policy Implementation." Sociological Theory. 17:2 146-170. Link
As rational choice theory has moved from economics into political science and sociology, it has been dramatically transformed. The intellectual diffusion of agency theory illustrates this process. Agency theory is a general model of social relations involving the delegation of authority, and generally resulting in problems of control, which has been applied to a broad range of substantive contexts. This paper analyzes applications of agency theory to state policy implementation in economics, political science, and sociology. After documenting variations in the theory across disciplinary contexts, the strengths and weaknesses of these different varieties of agency theory are assessed. Sociological versions of agency theory incorporating both broader microfoundations and richer models of social structure, are in many respects the most promising. This type of agency theory illustrates the potential of art emerging sociological version of rational choice theory.

Mahoney, J. 2000. "Path Dependence in Historical Sociology." Theory and Society. 29:4 507-548. Link

Whitford, J. 2002. "Pragmatism and the Untenable Dualism of Means and Ends: Why Rational Choice Theory Does Not Deserve Paradigmatic Privilege." Theory and Society. 31:3 325-363. Link

Mclean, PD. 2004. "Widening Access While Tightening Control: Office-holding, Marriages, and Elite Consolidation in Early Modern Poland." Theory and Society. 33:2 167-212. Link
Elites are dynamically emergent and evolving groups, yet their organization at any given time has tremendous implications for the tenor of social life and the probability of historical change. Using data on more than 3,000 Senatorial office-holders and over 3,100 elite marriages in early modern Poland, this article systematically documents changes over time in the structure of the Polish elite between 1500 and 1795 from a ``multiple-networks'' perspective. It measures timing of entry into senatorial ranks, regional integration of the elite, degree of elite dominance, and patterns of overlap between office-holding and marriage networks across four distinct eras in Polish history. Aggregate network patterns reveal a system in the eighteenth century characterized simultaneously by widening political access and increasing super-elite political control. Highlighting these patterns makes better sense of the Polish nobility's distinct cultural practices than do other historical sociological accounts and illuminates the structural basis for Poland's remarkable constitutional moment in the late eighteenth century.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2010. "Theory of Practice, Rational Choice, and Historical Change." Theory and Society. 39:5 527-553. Link
If we are to believe the proponents of the Theory of Practice and of Rational Choice, the gap between these two paradigmatic approaches cannot be bridged. They rely on ontological premises, theories of motivations and causal models that stand too far apart. In this article, I argue that this theoretical antinomy loses much of its edge when we take as objects of sociological investigation processes of historical change, that is, when we try to specify in theoretical terms how and in which conditions historical actors enact and endorse shifts in patterns of relations as well as shifts in the symbolic and cognitive categories that make these relations significant. I substantiate this argument in light of the distinction between two temporalities of historical change: first, the long waves of gradual change and, second, the short waves of moments of breaks and ruptures. Along the way, I develop an argument about the conditions of emergence of self-limiting norms and the centrality of epistemic beliefs in situations of high disruption.