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Lecture 4

Lecture 4 January 31.docx

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Matthias Koenig

SOC377H1- January 31, 2011 Methodological Individualism Rational Choice and Game Theory -Focused on Bourdieu and Giddens via Sewell who tried to conceptualize agency and structure in categories of mutual constitution. Instead of separating agency of actors and structures as co- determination Bourdieu- via habitus- structure and agency linked Parsons- multi-dimensional approach to action systems, sub-systems as functionally interrelated in overall system- solve micro and macro – focus on personalities of scientific culture - 2 approaches- devise conceptual framework (2 types) - Coleman: both approaches of meta-theory- developing conceptual framework in which actual theorizing occurs. Basic criticism of Coleman against Parsons- move away from explanatory theory to attempt of classification theory Explanation taken very seriously by such theorists- try and formulate theories with explanatory core. Subsequent sessions- attempts at theorizing to explain social phenomena. – We are not so much interested in formulating concepts of how to look at society but rather look at theoretical explanations for given social phenomena. (Social or collective outcomes) Explanundum - Coleman: the explanatory goal of sociological theory is to understand social and collective outcomes, not individual (that would by psychology). We want explanations of institutions, norms, social phenomena, structures of power and inequality – Task: form explanations for them! Concept of methodological individualism- to formulate accounts of social collective outcomes requires a move to individual action. Coleman’s understanding of methodological individualism better understood first through other methods of methodological individualism 1. One distinction to be made to understand this concept- There is one version of methodological individualism which is really about ontological individualism (where as the other is about explanatory individualism - In reality we find inividuals who act but we do not see social structures which are derived from individuals but do not have an autonomous standing. What exists in the world are actors and actions but structures do not exist apart from actors. Structures are our attempts to make sense of multiplicity of actions but would not have autonomous onotological standing. 2. Explanatory individualism - Leaves this ontological question a little open and focuses on how to explain social outcomes that is where they really exist apart from individuals is not the issue but rather if we want to explain social phenomena we have to move through the individual actions of actors. This is what Coleman does by making the point of explaining social explanations- move from macro level down to micro level. - Another distinction- two version you will find in literature A. deductive nominalogical explanation: the idea would be that we are not only trying to understand individual’s actions but also trying to find a law of action to give explanation for social actions of interest to us. We want to find a law of action to explain how actors decide between different courses of action o This is Coleman’s approach B. Version of intentionalism explanation: the core idea would be to understand social collective outcomes we have to understand the subjective view of actors. Which leads to a position that is rather hermeneutical “Verstehen “Weber”- sociology as form of explanatory actors) Macro level- social situation Actors take course in action – Law of action (Should be very simple: the version proposed by Coleman in theory of rational choice: actors act according to law of maximizing utility: the law of action that gives us a prediction of which course actors will take: faced with two courses of action they will decide on the one that gives them greatest utility) Coleman proposes a version of explanatory individualism, deductive nominalogical and adopts theory of rational choice at theory of action. It is important to note this because you find other versions that relax notion of rationality. In Coleman’s version you have strict version of rational choice theory. Bourdon- similar theory but slightly different theory of action We are interested in Coleman’s- we must go to micro level of action where we have predictive law that gives us an account of what actors will do (maximization of utility) If we want to explain relations or correlations we see at the macro level (aggregates of behaviour, institutions and structure) we must always decompose to logic of action under which social actions emerge. Coleman and Protestant ethic (Weber) and theories of revolution – raises expectations, increase frustration, revolution emerge (interesting to test this theory in relation to current events in Middle East) Macro level- interdependent systems of actors- not in a trivial sense with separated individuals. We have instead problem of interdependence of actors. - Focus on such systems of action in which actors are interdependent with each other! Transition from MICRO to MACRO Elements of Action Systems (Starting point: actors and resources) different from Parsons drifting to functionalist explanation. To understand social behaviour- begin with 2 actors who typically have resources or events on which they have control and interest - Actors interested in events other actors control - These interests could be complementary (Exchange rights to control to fulfill interst) E (1) E (2) A1 A2 Realizing interest and maximizing utility – exchange result from complementary interests - Some result in conflict where actors have opposed interests Or - Cooperation – if they have common interests (emergence of norms: emerge out of common or shared interests in certain actions or events) Interdependent actions as soon as actors control events in which others have an interest- then form explanations for outcomes in terms of exchange - The notion of power- focus on A1 (actor 1) the actor has control over a number of events which other actors have an interest. Ideally the actor will have exclusive control over additional events so you have additional actors who have interest but no control over those events. Actor 1 would then be in a powerful situation. Power is a concept that describes a constellation of actors and interests given a certain distribution of resources. One further complication to understand- the notion of control is not as simple as it seems. For instance, think about property or land ownership. The control actor 1 has of land is not physical control of land but rather right of control which is recognized by other actors. The notion of control is typically understood as right of control or right to use resources for events in interest of actor and therefore assumes an intersubjective census over the rights to act. This census does not have to exist, if A1 and A2 have different belief in who should own- conflicting interests- the rights of control would be taken for granted. If we conceive of control as a right of control it becomes clear that actors can find solutions to cooperation by granting rights of control to someone else- this happens in authority relations- rights of control granted to a third actor who would then assume the right to act from the actors 1 and 2. This is the classical situation in Hobbes’ contract theory- actors have conflict interests- thus grant rights to act to sovereign state who would then resolve conflicting interests. We are not talking about authority though in context of norms. - So in explanation of norms- before we go to that- let us talk about concept of social relations o Recurrent social relation- know acting repeatedly even in different constellations- referring to different types of goods… social relations in other words permit actors to find solutions to how they fulfill interests to take into account they will need each other again and have opportunity to exchange rights of control over and over again The explanation of norms is a crucial problem in sociological theory. Parsons talked about it when writing about theory of institutions (interrelated set of norms) the logic follows basic path of understanding how norms (as macro phenomena emerge out of action of interdependent actors) Instead of regarding norms as starting point, how do we explain these norms in the first place. How to deduce the existence of norms at macro level to situation of interdependence actors in micro level- Task Coleman set for himself. He does 2 steps: 2 sub problems (Coleman) – separate these steps clearly 1. Under which conditions does an interest in norms emerge? 2. Under which conditions do the enforcement (engagement in sanctions) of norms become possible? GAME THEORY- Coleman - An attempt to understand the logic of action interdependent system of actors by reducing them to typical games and typical pay of structures for actors - Typical game: prisoners dilemma – pay off structure/ situation Coleman uses for explanation of norms Actor 1 Actor 2 - faced with two actions 1. Cooperate 2. Defect Pay off structure: R: reward T- temptation P- pu
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