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Handbook of analytical sociology

April 28, 2010

Cover of Oxford Handbook of Analytical Sociology Oxford Handbook of Analytical Sociology, edited by Hedström and Bearman was published last year. It’s a collection of articles written by “hotshots” of contemporary sociology. The list of contributors include for example Jon Elster, Diego Gambetta, Karen Cook, Duncan J. Watts, and Christopher Winship. I don’t have it yet. So far I have read a preliminary version of Bruch and Mare’s chapter about segregation which I found on the Web somewhere couple of months ago. In my humble private opinion this book seems to be a great synthesis of recent work of people, who do their best to make Social Science a true science. I believe this book might be as important as Coleman’s “Foundations…”.

Surprisingly, the book has only one customer review on Amazon.com. In this case however, quantity may be  surpassed by quality as the reviewer is no other but Herbert Gintis himself. I’m not sure about his doubts regarding the lack of equations in the handbook. However, I definitely agree with his opening statement that, at this moment, sociology lacks a core theory. This has a lot of bad consequences. Recently I see them almost everywhere, but this is a subject for a different post. Anyway, I think that this theory-less state in sociology is going to change in the not so distant future. And the Handbook will probably do its job in that endeavor. I do believe that the winning paradigm will be some theory of goal-directed behavior. Perhaps something like “generalized rational choice”. One evidence for this trend might be a diffusion of decision- and game-theoretic thinking to a variety of disciplines which, apart from analytical sociology, today include economics, biology, AI research, political science, psychology etc. Not to mention at least three (depends how you count) Nobel Prices in economics in recent years.

We’ll see.

Meanwhile, I’m ordering the book.

PS. The book was also reviewed in JASSS here.

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