Agreeing With Omar

15 February 2007 at 9:32 am Leave a comment

| Nicolai Foss |

Geoff Hodgson is in many ways an extremely interesting scholar. His work is penetrating, he is extremely widely read, his critique of mainstream economics is often well taken, and he is a lucid writer. However, he (like all of us) entertains at least one heavy idiosyncracy, namely a chronic penchant for picking on the notion of methodological individualism. Some of us think methodological individualism is almost trivially true, but  Hodgson certainly wouldn’t agree. Many of his writings contain attacks on MI.  A recent issue of Organization Studies contains a major diatribe against MI penned by Hodgson.

Apparently prompted by Hodgson’s piece, Brayden at orgtheory.intranet (;-)) declares that he has “not (and never will be) a methodological individualist.” He quotes Hodgson’s invocation of the familiar regress problem. In two characteristically acerbic comments, Omar characterizes Hodgson’s piece as belonging to “a disturbing genre of post-Giddensian British social theory which is so concerned with scholastic matters of definition and conceptual refinement that it is seldom able to make any clear analytical points.” Omar argues, rightly IMHO, that

the infinite regress assumption is as much a problem for structuralistas as it is for meth-(ind)-heads. . . . In fact, I would argue that the infinite regress assumption is much more of a problem for any ontological structuralist account than from an ontological individualist story, since structures cannot (by definition) be foundational entities (while individuals may be but not always); they must be generated from some other set of simpler components (individuals may be this component, but not necessarily). Thus any generative structuralist stance truly worth its salt cannot be satisfied with pointing the finger at the meth-heads for having the logical difficulty of infinite regress.

Read the entire exchange. It is quite illuminating. And it is great to agree with Omar for once (cf. these posts). Hey, Omar, what are you doing over there with those muzzy sociologists?

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Methods/Methodology/Theory of Science.

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