Methodological Individualism and Micro–Macro Modeling

In Nathalie Bulle & Francesco Di Iorio (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Methodological Individualism: Volume I. Springer Verlag. pp. 377-405 (2023)
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Abstract

This contribution addresses the relation between (macro) hypotheses about social collectives (ranging from dyads to societies) on the one hand and (micro) hypotheses about individual actors on the other. This relation is the subject of methodological individualism (MI) and micro–macro modeling. Their ideas are first illustrated with an example: it is shown how the hypothesis that inequality is related to societal political violence can be explained by considering theories about individuals (i.e. micro theories) and relations between the macro and micro factors (bridge assumptions). Next the components of micro–macro explanations are analyzed in detail. One question is whether macro and micro propositions and bridge assumptions are lawful statements, causal singular hypotheses or only correlations. It is shown that bridge assumptions can be empirical and analytical (i.e. logically true) statements. An example of the former is the impact of inequality on individual political deprivation, an example of the latter is the aggregation of individual crimes to the crime rate. After outlining the major arguments for micro–macro modeling and methodological individualism I illustrate their wide application in the social sciences. I conclude with a discussion of possible problems of micro–macro modeling and MI and a summary of the program of MI.

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