Christopher Edling Jens Rydgren

Analytical Sociology: Bringing Culture and Identity Back In



This paper is a critique of analytical sociology as presented in Peter Hedström's book Dissecting the Social. Our critique has two main targets. First, we believe that too little attention is being paid to the macro-to-micro link, and we argue for the importance of macro-level entities such as culture, social categories, and groups - all of which have so far been largely omitted from analytical sociology. Second, we critique the persistent focus on intentionality as the driving force of social action. We argue that the strong focus on intentionality unnecessarily restricts the scope conditions of analytical sociology, and that it also introduces theoretical inconsistencies, by bringing in unrealistic assumptions and as-if theorizing. Hedström has strived to distance the program of analytical sociology from rational choice theory by relaxing the assumption of rationality. However, we argue that analytical sociology is still too closely connected with rational choice theory, and that the assumption of intentionality - that people make reasoned choices - needs to be relaxed. We discuss the ways in which a further focus on social identity would complement analytical sociology by making it fundamentally more realistic and less restricted.


  • Analytical Sociology
  • Culture
  • Identity
  • Macro-Micro Link
  • Social Mechanisms


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