Advocacy of ‘methodological individualism’ is a widespread, especially among economists. However, the term is rarely defined with adequate precision and some crucial ambiguities are explored in this article. Among these is the commonplace ambivalence over whether explanations should be in terms of individuals alone, or in terms of individuals plus relations between them. It is shown that a great deal hinges on this subtle and often overlooked distinction in explanantia. In particular, explanations in terms of individuals alone have never, as yet, been achieved. Furthermore, the more feasible version of explanations in terms of individuals plus relations between them amount to the introduction of social structure alongside individuals in the explanantia. Serious questions remain whether this version warrants the one-sided emphasis on individuals in the term ‘methodological individualism’.
- Joseph Schumpeter
- social structures