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Book part
Publication date: 31 October 2014

John Levi Martin

This paper attempts to rebut criticisms of, and give further clarifications to, arguments about the nature of sociological explanation previously made by Martin (2011).

Abstract

Purpose

This paper attempts to rebut criticisms of, and give further clarifications to, arguments about the nature of sociological explanation previously made by Martin (2011).

Design/methodology/approach

Here, arguments initially derived through historical reconstruction of theory are instead drawn out from our common stock of experiences. Aspects of the argument that were complex as initially presented are simplified here, and the maximum contrast between this approach and the more conventional is made.

Practical implications

The implications for practice are many; most important, the claim of Martin (2011) – rejected by Bradford (2013), as critiqued herein – to offer a coherent alternative to our current understanding of the task of explanation, if successfully demonstrated, suggests a reorientation of sociological research toward the production of intersubjectively valid cartographies and away from causal or pseudo-causal accounts.

Findings

Social theorists who are willing to seriously think about what lies in between our practice and knowledge as sociologists and as actors – to do the research.

Originality/value

The value of the paper, therefore, derives from its capacity to dispel common misunderstandings of Martin (2011), and to allow social researchers as well as social theorists, to make use of a coherent vocabulary for the development of social research, which otherwise would remain inaccessible to them.

Details

Mediations of Social Life in the 21st Century
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78441-222-7

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Book part
Publication date: 12 October 2012

John Hamilton Bradford completed his dissertation entitled “Systems, Social Order, and the Global Debt Crisis” in 2010 from the University of Tennessee. He has since…

Abstract

John Hamilton Bradford completed his dissertation entitled “Systems, Social Order, and the Global Debt Crisis” in 2010 from the University of Tennessee. He has since taught sociology as Lecturer at the University of Tennessee and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and in Fall 2012 will be joining Mississippi Valley State University's Department of Social Sciences as Assistant Professor. His current research interests include the meaning and function of social scientific explanations, the sociology and political economy of money and finance, formalizing sociological theories with multi-agent computer simulations, and the sociology of environmental risk and policy.

Details

Theorizing Modern Society as a Dynamic Process
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-034-5

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Book part
Publication date: 31 October 2014

John Hamilton Bradford

To clarify and address questions that have arisen concerning John Levi Martin’s Explanation of Social Action (2011). I reply to some of Martin’s comments to my original…

Abstract

Purpose

To clarify and address questions that have arisen concerning John Levi Martin’s Explanation of Social Action (2011). I reply to some of Martin’s comments to my original review of his book (2012). In particular, this paper examines the distinction between first-person and third-person accounts of human action and whether third-person explanations of action are ever justified.

Findings

This paper concedes several of Martin’s points, but contra Martin, maintains that third-person accounts are sometimes valuable forms of explanation. This paper also concludes that the distinction between first-person and third-person explanations is relative to the actor.

Methodology/approach

A careful and close analysis of his reply is employed along with careful explication and exemplification of central concepts related to the study of human action.

Social implications

Martin has argued that third-person explanations of social action generate epistemological instability and hierarchical social relationships between researchers and those researched. This paper expresses doubts about the generalizability of these claims.

Originality/value of paper

To date, no extended discussion has been published pertaining to the social value of third-person explanations of social action.

Details

Mediations of Social Life in the 21st Century
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78441-222-7

Keywords

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Book part
Publication date: 2 December 2013

John Hamilton Bradford

To summarize and evaluate John Levi Marin’s recent book, The Explanation of Social Action (2011), the central thesis of which is that the actions of other people cannot be…

Abstract

Purpose

To summarize and evaluate John Levi Marin’s recent book, The Explanation of Social Action (2011), the central thesis of which is that the actions of other people cannot be explained without first understanding those actions from the point of view of the actors themselves. Martin thus endeavors to reorient social science toward concrete experience and away from purportedly useless abstractions.

Design/methodology/approach

This review chapter employs close scrutiny of and applies immanent critique to Martin’s argumentative claims, warrants, and the polemical style in which these arguments are presented.

Findings

This chapter arrives at the following conclusions: (1) Martin unnecessarily truncates the scope of sociological investigation; (2) he fails to define the key concepts within his argument, including “explanation,” “social action,” and “understanding,” among others; (3) he overemphasizes the external or “environmental” causes of action; (4) rather than inducing actions, the so-called “action-fields” induce experiences, and are therefore incapable of explaining actions; (5) Martin rejects counterfactual definitions of causality while defining his own notion of causality in terms of counterfactuals; (6) most of his critiques of other philosophical accounts of causality are really critiques of their potential misapplication; (7) the separation of experience and language (i.e., propositions about experience) in order to secure the validity of the former does not secure the validity of sociological inquiry, since experiences are invariably reported in language; and, finally, (8) Martin’s argument that people are neurologically incapable of providing accurate, retrospective accounts of the motivations behind their own actions is based on the kind of third-person social science he elsewhere repudiates; that he acknowledges the veracity of these studies demonstrates the potential utility of the “third-person” perspectives and the implausibility of any social science that abandons them.

Originality/value

To date Martin’s book has received much praise but little critical attention. This review chapter seeks to fill this lacuna in the literature in order to better elucidate Martin’s central arguments and the conclusions that can be reasonably inferred from the logical and empirical evidence presented.

Details

Social Theories of History and Histories of Social Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78350-219-6

Keywords

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Book part
Publication date: 12 October 2012

John Hamilton Bradford

Purpose – This essay attempts to answer the question, “What distinguishes inter-human influence from other forms of influence?”Design/methodology/approach – Specifying the…

Abstract

Purpose – This essay attempts to answer the question, “What distinguishes inter-human influence from other forms of influence?”

Design/methodology/approach – Specifying the micro-foundations of social structures in terms of communicative inferences necessitates a revision of the concept of social structures (and institutions) as distributed, and hence, uncertain, structures of expectation. Institutional realities are generated in linguistic interaction through the indirect communication of generic references. The generalizing function of language – in particular, abstraction and memory – coupled with its reflexive function, to turn references into things, are sufficient to generate both social structures and institutions as collective inferences.

Findings – Social relations are fundamentally communicative relations. The communicative relation is triadic, implying an enunciator, an audience, and some referential content. Through linguistic communication, humans are capable of communicating locally with others about others nonlocally. Institutions exist only as expectations concerning the expectations of others. These expectations, however, are not only in the mind, and they are not exclusively psychological entities. Linguistically, these expectations appear as the reported statement within the reporting statement, that is, they are constituted through indirect discourse.

Research limitations/implications – An important implication for current sociological theory is that, from the point of view of a sociology defined as communication about communication from within communication, institutional realities should not be reified as existing naturalistically or objectively above or behind the communications through which they are instantiated.

Originality value – This approach, then, is decidedly anti-“realist.” The goal of such research is to examine the inadequacy of nonreflexive models of social order. Accounts of how sets of social relationships emerge will remain inadequate if they do not reflect upon the cognitive and communicative processes which make possible the consideration of such structures.

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Book part
Publication date: 31 October 2014

Abstract

Details

Mediations of Social Life in the 21st Century
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78441-222-7

To view the access options for this content please click here
Book part
Publication date: 31 October 2014

Abstract

Details

Mediations of Social Life in the 21st Century
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78441-222-7

To view the access options for this content please click here
Book part
Publication date: 2 December 2013

Abstract

Details

Social Theories of History and Histories of Social Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78350-219-6

To view the access options for this content please click here
Book part
Publication date: 12 October 2012

Abstract

Details

Theorizing Modern Society as a Dynamic Process
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-034-5

To view the access options for this content please click here
Book part
Publication date: 12 October 2012

Harry F. Dahms and Lawrence Hazelrigg

The thing about naïveté is its hermetic tendency. One imagines having graduated out of it, but imagination proves only its own potentials. It is of course good to be held…

Abstract

The thing about naïveté is its hermetic tendency. One imagines having graduated out of it, but imagination proves only its own potentials. It is of course good to be held to account by the question that circulates through so much of our belletristic literatures (as in, for instance, Edward St Aubyn's Bad News): How can one think one's way out of a problem, when the problem is the way one thinks? Yet an extra layer of diagnosis need not result in anything beyond itself. I can easily glimpse the chiaroscuro of another mind and thus know of the limits of my knowledge of its furnishings without knowing what they (the limits or the furnishings) are, or even whether the clarity is meant to be hidden by, more than hide, the dimness. But is inner presentation/apprehension of one's own self-portrait any more diamantine, any less naive, in its “obviousness”? And if it should be, at any moment, where/what are the reliably timely markers? When, therefore, I experience increasingly complex realities – layer upon layer, cut and recut and repackaged – without commensurate increases in production of value, am I experiencing a mind-blindness?– An out-take from “After Fin de partie

Details

Theorizing Modern Society as a Dynamic Process
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-034-5

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