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Social Structure and Social Explanation

Friday, January 18, 2013
5:00 AM
Tanner Library, 1171 AH

Social and political theorists often talk of social structures, their causes and effects and the place of individuals within them. Philosophers, however, tend to be more wary of social structures, for their ontology and epistemology isn't entirely clear. On the account I pursue, social structures are theoretical entities, postulated to do work in a social theory, and an important constraint is accounting for their role in structural explanation. In this paper I consider some forms of social structural explanation and propose a philosophical account of social structure -- drawing on the work of Alan Garfinkel, Charles Tilly, Anthony Giddens and William Sewell -- that helps us understand how reference to social structures is explanatory.