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Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts (1st edn)

Jean-Frédéric Morin, Christian Olsson, and Ece Özlem Atikcan
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date: 17 July 2024

p. 166Methodological Individualism and Holismlocked

p. 166Methodological Individualism and Holismlocked

  • Suzan Gibril


This chapter discusses methodological individualism and holism, which are often the focus of ontological debate. Methodological individualism (MI) is a paradigm in the social sciences that emerged from sociology and philosophy. The main purpose of MI is not to favour the individual over the collective, but to explain the occurrence of social phenomena by an action-driven rhetoric, which is motivated by intentional states. MI is primarily based on three postulates: the individualistic postulate; the comprehension postulate; and the rationality postulate. Holism, in contrast, is based on the idea that society cannot be reduced solely to its constituent parts — i.e. individuals. Individuals are the product of societies, histories, economic inequalities, social status, and so on. Therefore, they should be treated as objects that can only be perceived and understood from within.

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