Approaches to Social Theory

Approaches to Social Theory

Copyright Date: 1986
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Approaches to Social Theory
    Book Description:

    Many social scientists lament the increasing fragmentation of their discipline, the trend toward specialization and away from engagement with overarching issues. Opportunities to transcend established subdisciplinary boundaries are rare, but the extraordinary conference that gave rise to this volume was one such occasion.

    The W. I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki Memorial Conference on Social Theory, held at the University of Chicago, brought together an outstanding array of scholars representing a variety of contending approaches to social theory. In panels, presentations, and general discussions, these scholars confronted one another in the context of an entire range of approaches. But as readers of this deftly edited collection will discover, the conference was more than a forum for abstract theoretical debate. These papers and discussions represent original scholarly contributions that exemplify orientations to social theory by examining real problems in the functioning of society-from large-scale economic growth and decline to the dynamics of interpersonal interaction.

    By exploring a few central issues in different ways, this unique conference worked through some lively theoretical incompatibilities and established genuine potential for communication, for complementary and collaborative effort at the core of sociology. The excitement of that dialogue, and the intellectual vitality it generated, are captured for the reader inApproaches to Social Theory.

    "Meaty presentations and confrontations of ideas by people whose views we respect...Recommended to anyone interested in the current state of social theory." -Contemporary Sociology

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-361-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preliminaries
    • Introduction
      (pp. 1-10)
      Siegwart Undenberg, James S. Coleman and Stefan Nowak

      In autumn 1982, Stefan Nowak and David Featherman planned, within the broader framework of the program of cooperation in the social sciences between the Polish Academy of Sciences and the American Council of Learned Societies and with encouragement from the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), a series of Polish-American conferences in sociology. The general methodological theme of the conferences was intended to be the qualitative-quantitative chasm in sociology, with the aim of helping to bridge that chasm, both in theory and in research. The first conference was to be on social theory, to be held in the United States...

    • On W. I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki
      (pp. 11-12)

      William Issac Thomas (1863–1947), sociologist and social psychologist, was born in Virginia. Little is known about his early years, but he entered the University of Tennessee at the age of 17 and graduated in 1884. He remained at the university for the next four years as an instructor in modern and classical languages, thereby acquiring a linguistic facility that was to prove invaluable in his later work. After marrying Harriet Park in 1888, he spent a year studying in Germany and then joined the faculty of Oberlin College, where he taught English. In 1893, while on leave from Oberlin,...

    • Opening of the Conference
      (pp. 13-14)

      I am pleased to have the occasion to welcome you to the W. I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki Conference on Contemporary Social Theory. I am sad, however, to have the occasion to do so without a set of fourteen Polish participants who were intended to be here and who themselves intended to be here. Their papers are written, and some have been translated into English. They have, however, along with their papers, been unable to leave Poland to attend the conference.

      Nevertheless the conference is being held—not with them, but as a memorial to Polish-American collaboration in sociology, as...

    • Prologue
      (pp. 15-18)

      Although it may be only an aspect of what Thomas Kuhn has suggested as the developmental path of any normal science, there is a worrisome drift in the social sciences away from an involvement with overarching issues and toward further specialization and progressively more detailed problem-solving. More disturbingly, a matter-of-fact acceptance of a limited and largely one-way relationship between producers of social science and their consumers, supporters, and observers is gradually taking root. Basic disciplinary premises and priorities are assumed to be fairly static rather than subject to active questioning and reshaping. Disciplinary boundaries that are best kept indefinite and...

  4. Current Issues in Social Theory
    • How Sociological Theory Lost Its Central Issue and What Can Be Done About It
      (pp. 19-24)

      Given the short time allotted to this panel, I will start with three concise theses and I will exaggerate to make my point quickly [cf. Lindenberg 1983a for a more detailed discussion].

      The first thesis is:There are virtually no current issues in sociological theory relevant to sociology as an empirical science right now.

      The second thesis is:Unless something drastic happens, sociology departments in the United States and elsewhere will turn either into departments of social philosophy or into departments of solid social empiricismThis process is already under way and I think eventually both kinds of departments will...

    • The Analysis of Diversity and the Diversity of Analysis
      (pp. 25-28)

      For me, the house of sociology has many rooms. An interest in social institutions guides my work. I believe that the “institutional approach” to political sociology is close to the real world and at the same time supplies a basis for theoretical analysis of institution building in politics. Institutional analysis is especially useful in probing nation-states with democratic political institutions which are now experiencing great internal strain.

      My approach to institutional analysis is based on a group of irreducible units and objects of analysis such as primary groups, communities, bureaucratic structures, and nation states. The units and objects are the...

    • The Hidden Issues: A New Agenda
      (pp. 29-32)

      When James Coleman asked me to be on this panel, a panel on current issues in social theory, I asked him what he thought “issues” and “social theory” meant as a topic. He said he would be happy if we would discuss what ought to be the dominant themes and issues in sociology. “Current,” as we use the term normally in the social sciences, is a term that refers to a decade or maybe 20 years, but not much more than that. I am more interested in a period of about 150 years, one running roughly from 1800 or 1850...

    • General Discussion
      (pp. 33-38)

      Jack Goldstone:Lindenberg reminds us again of the demise of sociological theory and predicts its disappearance. Failure of classical mechanics to explain the atom didn’t mean the end of physics. It seems that as long as phenomena exist that require explanation, sociology is not going to disappear regardless of how many consensuses break down, regardless of how many theories turn out to be failures. I’d like to know why you think that inequality, social change, and revolution will cease to be problems that will draw sociological analysis.

      Siegwart Lindenberg:I never said that the phenomena will go away but that...

  5. The Emergence of Sociology as a Discipline
    • Three Sociological Traditions: On Creating the Future While Creating the Past
      (pp. 39-44)

      Robert Bierstedt, in his lucidly writtenAmerican Sociological Theory(1981), comments that Durkheim, Weber, and Marx were known by American sociologists before 1940 but not especially adulated. They were just three names among many who made up the history of the field, and not among the most important or interesting. We see the same thing in Pitirirn Sorokin’sContemporary Sociological Theories,published in 1928. Here Durkheim, Marx, and Weber get a few pages, but relatively superficial ones, and far less space than that devoted to Le Play, Pareto, or Otto Ammon.

      Today, the reputations of Marx, Durkheim, and Weber are...

    • The Development of Scholasticism
      (pp. 45-52)

      My general argument is that the development of sociology as a discipline led us systematically away from the study of humans acting in society. The higher the prestige of a piece of sociological work, the fewer people in it are sweaty, laughing, ugly or pretty, dull at parties, or have warts on their noses. Field work is the lowest status in methodology, because surprising humans keep popping out and bewildering us by doing things we do not understand; much better to have people answering closedended questions so that they fall neatly into cross-classifications to be analyzed by loglinear methods. Similarly,...

    • Two Traditions: Substantive Analysis and Empirical Research
      (pp. 53-56)

      I was so filled with admiration by Professor Collins’s paper that I want to go him one better. I see only two traditions in sociology. First, the tradition of empirical study, the study of the data, either using officially gathered statistics or creating data where they didn’t exist before by direct observation, in the way field anthropologists or the old-fashioned participant observers used to do or the way it is done now by surveys. Second, the tradition of substantive analysis.

      The empirical tradition is an illustrious one, full of disconnectednesses. I recommend to you, for a much better account of...

    • General Discussion
      (pp. 57-62)

      Arthur Mann:I do have a question. If one were to look at the founding fathers of sociology in the United States, how important was “Do Good,” amelioration, solving social problems?

      Edward Shils:Fundamentally important. The answer is obvious.

      Arthur Mann:Why then does it not become one of the major traditions in sociology as a discipline? It was not mentioned. I heard three traditions from one person, two traditions from another.

      Edward Shils:Because it was pervasive. It didn’t have to be mentioned.

      Arthur Mann:To what extent is it still true of sociologists that they think they can...

  6. Sociology of Knowledge
    • Academic Market, Ideology, and the Growth of Scientific Knowledge: Physiology in Mid—Nineteenth-Century Germany
      (pp. 63-75)

      Sociology of knowledge was very popular in continental European sociology during the 1920s and 1930s, went into almost complete oblivion during and after World War II, to reappear again with added force about 1970 (Curtis & Petras 1970; Fuhrman 1980; Hamilton 1974; Merton 1973; Remmling 1967; Stark 1958). This recent interest in the sociology of knowledge has been distinguished from prewar sociology of knowledge by three characteristics: (1) the field is now as popular in Britain as on the continent of Europe and has many adherents also in the United States; (2) it also claims as its domain science, a...

    • Comment
      (pp. 76-77)

      If we go back to the 1920s, we find philosophies of knowledge which for the most part exempted science from the realm of explanation. The first people who pushed into a sociology of science were Marxists in the 1930s: J. D. Bernal in England, Bernard Stern on this side of the Atlantic, and others who had rather strong ideological concerns about why science should not be exempt from being seen as part of a social system and hence molded to social purposes. This line of analysis largely disappeared for some time, but not without leaving a residue, and not without...

    • General Discussion
      (pp. 78-82)

      Harrison White:In describing the fierce competition of the new German university system, Ben-David spoke of the fact that one of the things going for the experimentalists was, after all, that they were doing lab work, and he seemed to take it for granted that lab work was more communicable. I found that a fascinating puzzle because in my own experience, lab work is one of the least communicable things in the world. It is not at all easy to replicate experimental work or lab work. I would argue that the advantage of experimentalists is a paradox. You have to...

  7. Network Theory
    • Social Network Theory
      (pp. 83-104)

      Our task here is threefold. First, we shall quickly adumbrate the particular sort of social structural analysis with which we and our associates have been concerned over the past ten years or so. We will then step back to indicate some of the central theoretical issues that have been plaguing us as we set about applying this theoretical perspective to empirical problems. To avoid confusion, we shall restrict the term “network analysis” to the emerging set of analytic techniques developed to examine network data—i.e., data typically in the form of a square matrix of rows and corresponding columns referring...

    • Comment
      (pp. 105-107)

      I serve two purposes here. One is to give you a brief and sympathetic exegesis of the paper. The second is to call your attention to three points indicating how the paper’s argument is to my mind wrong-headed—not wrong in fact, but wrong in perspective.

      Laumann and Knoke offer four interesting ideas or results. (1) They distinguish ways in which issues are linked through social structure. Issues can be perceived to be substantively similar and so be linked in content. Issues can involve the same participants and so be linked through the people active in them. Issues can have...

    • General Discussion
      (pp. 108-110)

      Micbael Hecbter:This question is equally addressed to Ed Laumann and to Ron Burt. I wonder whether network theory or structural theory in general can ever successfully account for change—that is, dynamics—and if it can, I want to know what the mechanism is. So I want to know how we answer questions like, “Where do structures come from?” “How do they change?” “Where do the relationships come from?” “How do they change?”

      Other papers in this conference deal with social dynamics. Ecological theories posit selection mechanisms that quickly get translated into change, and rational choice theories posit some...

  8. Structural Theory
    • The California Gold Rush: Social Structure and Transaction Costs
      (pp. 111-119)

      This paper will provide an example of how to account for social structure by means of transaction costs. Transaction costs refer to the costs of interaction and of exchange itself, such as the costs of collecting information on interaction partners and on the commodity or action that is exchanged, the costs of negotiating an agreement or contract and of monitoring its implementation, and the actual enforcement costs of the agreement. Transaction costs exist because human beings’ rationality is bounded, not least by the time and effort of collecting and processing information; because some people are opportunists who violate trust and...

    • Comment
      (pp. 120-122)

      Oberschall starts his paper by emphasizing that recent developments in economics have overcome the limitations of the assumption of unbounded rationality of neoclassical economic theory. Specifically, by taking transaction costs into account, it is possible for economics—and by implication for sociology-to maintain the model of rational choice without ignoring or neglecting the external social conditions that restrain human action and that explain why it is not based on purely rational self-interest. The body of Oberschall’s paper uses a discussion of the California gold rush in the years around 1850 to illustrate this claim.

      He shows that the miners had...

    • General Discussion
      (pp. 123-128)

      Siegwart Lindenberg:I think there is a stubborn misunderstanding concerning rational choice and I see that again in Peter Blau’s comments. The misunderstanding is that anyone claims that rational choice theory is a structural theory. What Oberschall and I and other rational choice theorists claim is that there will be no adequate structural theorywithoutrational choice theory. The examples given by Blau only confirm this. His own theory would be even better if he would make the rational choice part of it explicit, as I tried to show in an article some years ago.

      Once this is understood, more...

  9. Purposive Action Theory
    • Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families
      (pp. 129-143)

      Although discussions of inequality among families and discussions of inequality between generations of the same family have been almost entirely separated, they are analytically closely related. In particular, regression away from the mean in the relation between the incomes of parents and children would be associated with large and growing inequality of income over time, while regression toward the mean would be associated with a smaller and more stable degree of inequality. These statements are obvious in a simple stochastic model of the relation between parents and children:

      ${I_{t + 1}} = a + b{I_t} + { \in _{t + r}}$(1)

      where It is the income of parents, It+ 1 is...

    • Comment
      (pp. 144-146)

      Once you grant Gary Becker his assumptions, you generally have to agree with his conclusions. So I will quibble with one of his assumptions: that the number of children in each generation is the same as the number of parents. I will take it on in a way that I think is fully consistent with what Becker wants to do. I will assume that the decision as to how many children to have is a matter of parental choice of investments in the next generation and therefore of course in further generations.

      The major element in Becker’s account is the...

    • General Discussion
      (pp. 147-150)

      Gary Becker:I agree that fertility is important; indeed, our complete paper analyzes the effects of fertility on the relation between the earnings and assets of parents and children. We show that a negative relation between fertility and parents’ income tends to reduce the degree of regression to the mean in both earnings and assets and that a decline in the average level of fertility raises the regression to the mean in earnings and lowers it in assets.

      My reading of the historical evidence [see Becker 1981, chap. 5] is that until the nineteenth century, income and number of children...

    • The Ecology of Organizations: Structural Inertia and Organizational Change
      (pp. 151-172)

      Human ecology seeks to explain the forms of human social systems and their development (Hawley 1968). It directs attention primarily to the ways in which environmental conditions interact with internal processes of development to shape the forms of social organizations. In so doing, it attempts to understand the forces that control the diversity of forms of social organization.

      In sociology, ecological theory has been applied primarily in the study of communities (territorially based social systems). However, ecological reasoning has also played an important role in many kinds of macrosociology (although the ideas are seldom called “ecological”). This paper considers issues...

    • Comment
      (pp. 173-175)

      I want to emphasize a point that Hannan and Freeman have made about the paradigm shift their work represents. In 1974, at the International Sociological Association meetings in Toronto, Hannan and Freeman presented a paper called “The Population Ecology of Organizations.” Things haven’t been the same since that time! They pointed out the very high death rate of organizations compared with what the literature in the 1960s would have led us to expect. For a representative cross section of organizations, the death rate is about one in ten per year, and for new organizations it is over one in two...

    • General Discussion
      (pp. 176-180)

      Peter Blau:The logic of what you say is very intriguing because it provides a new perspective. But there seem to be a couple of problems. One theorem says that inertia increases survival chance. But is inertia itself not an adaptation? How do you distinguish the theory of adaptation and the theory of selection?

      John Freeman:It is useful to make a distinction between whether the form of organization that you are studying survives and whetherindividualorganizations in those populations which manifest the form survive. Inertia is a way of saying that individual organizations are not adaptable. However it...

  10. Interpretive Sociology
    • Public Problems as Phenomena: The Shape of a Humanistic Social Science
      (pp. 181-195)

      There is a form of mordant humor illustrated by the story of two Frenchman who, following World War I, are trying to explain that disastrous set of events. “We wouldn’t have been in the war if it weren’t for the bicycle riders and the Jews,” said the first. “Why the bicycle riders?” asked the second. The first one replied, “Why the Jews?” It is a vein of irony in which an explanation is proffered seemingly assuming order and consistency in the world. The punchline is the reverse: a world of caprice, whim, and random unpredictability.

      In this paper I want...

    • Comment
      (pp. 196-198)

      As Gusfield’s paper documents, he commands a detailed body of information about the social and cultural organization of the factual and moral status of alcohol and its use in American society. I consider his work on the drinking-driver problem an excellent example of the social construction of social problems.

      Having noted this theoretical solidarity, I would like to comment on some of the issues Gusfield touches upon in his characterization of what he refers to as “interpretive sociology.” It may be helpful to frame these comments with a quotation from Richard Zaner, a philosopher of the phenomenological persuasion. He says,...

    • General Discussion
      (pp. 199-202)

      Joseph Gusjield:Phenomenology has often been criticized for doing away with any kind of definitive statement that one can make about what is happening and consequently reducing the role of the observer to reporting on what he finds from his relationship to subjects. I am very reluctant to take away from sociologists the kind of activity that tries to give some sense of what are the consequences of actions. What I have been admonishing here (and I do find a link between the interpretive sociology, the phenomenologists, and the symbolic interactionists) is to get as close as we can to...

  11. Organization Theory
    • Firm and Market Interfaces of Profit Center Control
      (pp. 203-220)

      Large American manufacturing firms have widely adopted some form of decentralization or divisionalization in past decades (Chandler 1962; Vancil 1979; Haspeslagh 1983). Why? Our argument will be a crosssectional one; it explains, without depending on imitation or history, why decentralization makes sense here and now for current executives of large manufacturing firms. Our argument also is a structuralist one: For both the innovators and later adopters, divisionalization must be interpreted with special reference to the context of what the other firms in a sector of the economy were doing.

      Vancil (1979) conducted one of the few extensive and systematic surveys...

    • Comment
      (pp. 221-224)

      Ever since the pioneering empirical work of Alfred Chandler, the investigation of multidivisional firms has been transforming our understanding of what organizations are and of how they operate. Williamson began the theoretical task by undermining the classical Weberian dichotomy between markets and hierarchies. Through his transaction cost analysis of contracting systems, Williamson underlined the fact that current business management is a mixture of market and hierarchy principles. Hybrid organizational forms such as diversification, profit centers, performance evaluation, transfer pricing, subcontracting, joint ventures, and conglomerates all point to the pervasiveness both of profit-oriented exchange relations within economic units and of overtly...

    • General Discussion
      (pp. 225-228)

      Michael Hechter:I want to ask you to clarify. I confess I don’t understand the dependent variable in your theory. I don’t understand what it is you are trying to explain. Is there a simple kind ofYvariable that fits into an equation that this theory attempts to explain?

      Robert Eccles:There are three different things we want to explain: the proliferation of divisionalized form, the existence of portfolio planning, and the transfer pricing practices that exist. In the classic way of thinking about it, firms really don’t need to divisionalize, and yet many do just that. The existence...

  12. Theory of Social Change
    • Explaining the Origins of Welfare States: A Comparison of Britain and the United States, 1880s–1920s
      (pp. 229-254)

      Social scientists have been “worrying about social change,” as Charles Tilly puts it (1983, p.1), since the emergence of the various disciplines in the nineteenth century. The enduring concern to understand the roots and consequences of the industrial revolution has certainly not been misplaced. Yet sociologists, even more than other social scientists, have labored under serious misconceptions. All too often, according to Tilly (1983, p. 6), sociologists have assumed that “ ‘social change’ is a coherent general phenomenon, explicableen bloc.” And they have postulated that the “main processes of large-scale social change take distinct societies through a succession of...

    • Comment
      (pp. 255-258)

      It is flattering to be the only historian asked to the Thomas and Znaniecki Conference on Contemporary Social Theory. I also welcome the invitation to respond to the Skocpol-Orloff comparative study of the foundations of the British and American welfare states in the years surrounding World War I. Their paper bears on a synthesis I am trying to write of the American Progressive movement. The term is an umbrella term that was coined just after 1910 for a multitude of reform movements that had been agitating the country since the end of the Spanish-American War. Continuing through World War I,...

    • Comment
      (pp. 259-261)

      In my necessarily brief discussion of the fine-grained, penetrating historical analysis of the emergence of welfare policy in Britain and the United States by Skocpol and Orloff, I wish to draw attention to several apparently parallel developments in metatheories which motivate inquiries about social change, on the one hand, and about individual change, on the other. Both developments in theoretical perspectives reflect an approach that can be called “contextualistic.”

      Skocpol and Orloff refer to Tilly’s recent summary of theoretical thinking about social change in setting out their own point of departure from these, perhaps limiting, assumptions. They might also have...

    • General Discussion
      (pp. 262-264)

      Joseph Ben-David:I would like to follow up Arthur Mann’s suggestions. When I listened to this paper one thing which came into my mind was that Bloomsbury was within walking distance of Whitehall. But Washington—at that time—was in the boondocks and there was no Bloomsbury in the United States. I think this was a basic difference in the social structure of the two societies.

      Wasn’t it also important that this was a period of very rapid immigration in the United States? Many of these immigrants came from eastern Europe and southern Europe—that is, they came from places...

  13. Sociolinguistics
    • Language Structure and Social Structure
      (pp. 265-284)

      The past three decades have witnessed a great deal of scholarly activity under the label of “sociolinguistics.”¹ Yet the barrier between sociology and linguistics remains as firm as ever. In their studies of speech communities, linguists have as often as not tried to create their own sociology, with curious results; and a vanishingly small number of sociologists have made use of the tools of linguistic analysis.² On the sociological side, this is not too severe a limitation. A great deal of important work has been done in the sociology of language where the data take the form “X speaks language...

    • Comment
      (pp. 285-287)

      William Labov has used a background which includes training in both “autonomous linguistics” and sociological methods and theory to contribute to our understanding of core issues in both disciplines. His past work has included both macro studies of phenomena of stratification (and mobility) and linguistic and social change; much of this research has employed analyses of results of extensive surveys of phonological production. He has also done micro studies of social interactional processes and rules; this research has attended to a variety of features of speech (phonological, syntactic, prosodic) in “comprehensive discourses analyses.” Labov started his paper by observing that...

    • General Discussion
      (pp. 288-290)

      Mancur Olson:Older blacks in the Philadelphia ghetto had speech that was less different from most American whites than did younger blacks in the same ghetto? I find it a most important and depressing finding that the older blacks, growing under a system of legal segregation, should in some respects diverge less from the rest of American society than teenagers growing up now in the big northern city ghetto.

      William Labov:I am equally discouraged. All previous discussions of this issue have been in terms of the opposite tendency, “decreolization”—that at one time Black English was a Creole similar...

  14. Social Psychology
    • Modeling Symbolic Interaction
      (pp. 291-309)

      Symbolic interactionism (e.g., McCall & Simmons 1978; Stryker 1980) provides insights into how humans understand social events. Definitions of situations categorize settings and the people in them, narrowing a person’s attention to a constrained range of phenomena, a restricted set of identities and objects that guide understanding and anticipation of social events. Events are created and interpreted to confirm the situational meanings provided by the definition of the situation. People create events to establish identities, to maintain identities, and to restore damaged identities. Expectations for another’s behavior reflect his or her identity, and if an observed event does not confirm...

    • Comment
      (pp. 310-312)

      I once heard Robert Frost describe a theory that he believed he followed in writing poetry. He’d reported that he would think up a good line, “Two paths diverged in a snowy wood.” Then, this line, standing alone, controlled the lines that followed, subject to certain artistic constraints. My companion at that talk concurred that Frost may have written his poems in that way but he doubted thatParadise Lostwas so composed.

      My guess is that many of you have similar reactions to Heise’s micro social model. For this reason, a part of my task is to be sure...

    • General Discussion
      (pp. 313-316)

      Ronald Burt:I have a problem with your procedure because of results on related items that a set of students in one of Columbia’s summer research seminars found. The question of their research was the meaning of cognitive space. We exposed people to a variety of hypothetical situations, created as vignettes using, on a much narrower scale, the same sort of conditions you do. Respondents were also asked to interpret their especially close relations with real people, on the same dimensions used to interpret the vignettes. If you looked at the semantic or cognitive space for real people versus the...

  15. Social Movements
    • A Theory of Social Movements, Social Classes, and Castes
      (pp. 317-337)

      The behavior of most individuals is, of course, influenced to some degree by the social groups to which they belong. The information and beliefs to which children are exposed obviously vary from one social group to another. Since it usually costs something to acquire new information, the theory of my discipline of economics leads one to predict that the behavior of individuals will sometimes be influenced by the beliefs and perceptions they inevitably absorb in the social groups in which they happen to have been raised. For the sociologist such a prediction must be utterly banal, for the influence of...

    • Comment
      (pp. 338-340)

      Mancur Olson’s paper is largely a plea for sociologists to take the theory he originally proposed inThe Logic of Collective Actionseriously. He tries to pique our interest by holding that the theory has important implications for the analysis of both economic development and of castes. I believe that his case for economic development, unfortunately an unpopular subject in American sociology and an even less popular one in American economics, is more convincing than his case for castes. In this discussion I plan to briefly comment on the applications he offers us and then to suggest that his theory...

    • General Discussion
      (pp. 341-344)

      James Coleman:I want to reinforce a point that Michael Hechter made, because it seems to me so important, given you are the author of this piece. It has to do with the logic of collective action. Consider the sentence in your paper: “The only way a distributional coalition can retain its value over several generations is by restricting the children of members of marriages with one another or by disinheriting a large number of the children.” Or, “endogamy, which is necessary” to the guild’s continuation.” You are treating collectivities as actors. In other words, you have engaged in exactly...

  16. Closing Address
    • Micro Foundations and Macrosocial Theory
      (pp. 345-363)

      One of the few benefits that comes with organizing a conference is the freedom to break rules. like a policeman going through a red light, it’s not exactly right, but there’s no one to tell you it’s wrong.

      A rule of the conference was that the papers “not be about social theory but be original contributions to the substance of social theory.” The rule was obeyed everywhere except in the panels, where it was not intended to apply in the first place. It is this rule that I shall break. Since this paper is the final paper of the conference...

    • General Discussion
      (pp. 364-368)

      Mancur Olson:While it would have some other shortcomings, wouldn’t a Walrasian general equilibrium theory meet all of your standards?

      James Coleman:I am glad you asked me that question. I believe that the appropriate paradigm for sociology is one which is derivative from Walrasian equilibrium theory, though one which deviates from that theory in part because not all social goods are divisible, without externalities, and obey properties of conservation; and in part because of social structure, which a Walrasian system ignores.

      Siegwart Lindenberg:Sometimes it helps to know that something that is described and deemed important already has a...

  17. References
    (pp. 369-388)
  18. Contributors
    (pp. 389-390)
  19. Name Index
    (pp. 391-394)
  20. Subject Index
    (pp. 395-398)