The Explanation of Social Action by John Levi MartinThe Explanation of Social Action by John Levi Martin

The Explanation of Social Action

byJohn Levi Martin

Hardcover | August 25, 2011

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The Explanation of Social Action is a sustained critique of the conventional understanding of what it means to "explain" something in the social sciences. It makes the strong argument that the traditional understanding involves asking questions that have no clear foundation and provoke anunnecessary tension between lay and expert vocabularies. Drawing on the history and philosophy of the social sciences, John Levi Martin exposes the root of the problem as an attempt to counterpose two radically different types of answers to the question of why someone did a certain thing: firstperson and third person responses. The tendency is epitomized by attempts to explain human action in "causal" terms. This "causality" has little to do with reality and instead involves the creation and validation of abstract statements that almost no social scientist would defend literally. This substitution of analysts' imaginations over actors' realities results from an intellectual history wherein social scientists began to distrust the self-understanding of actors in favor of fundamentally anti-democratic epistemologies. These were rooted most defensibly in a general understandingof an epistemic hiatus in social knowledge and least defensibly in the importation of practices of truth production from the hierarchical setting of institutions for the insane. Martin, instead of assuming that there is something fundamentally arbitrary about the cognitive schemes of actors, focuseson the nature of judgment. This implies the need for a social aesthetics, an understanding of the process whereby actors intuit intersubjectively valid qualities of complex social objects. In this thought-provoking and ambitious book, John Levi Martin argues that the most promising way forward tosuch a science of social aesthetics will involve a rigorous field theory.
John Levi Martin is Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Social Structures, which was awarded the 2010 Theory Prize from the American Sociological Association.
Title:The Explanation of Social ActionFormat:HardcoverDimensions:416 pages, 6.5 × 9.41 × 1.18 inPublished:August 25, 2011Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199773319

ISBN - 13:9780199773312

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Table of Contents

1. Why Questions? What Explanations?2. Causality and Persons3. Authority and Experience4. The Grid of Perception5. Action In and On a World6. A Social Aesthetics7. Valence and Habit8. Fields and Games9. Explanations ExplainedReferencesIndex