Key to the philosophy of social science offered here is the importance of what I’ve referred to as “actor-centered” sociology. Here is an elliptical description of three aspects of what I mean by this idea. First, it reflects a view of social ontology. The social world is constituted by the meaningful and oriented actions and mental frameworks of socially situated individuals and nothing else. Social things are composed, constituted, and given reality by the activities and interactions of individual actors—perhaps 2, perhaps 300 million. This does not mean social structures and forces do not exist. But it does mean that they gain their properties and powers through the activities and thoughts of social actors. Second, it puts forward a constraint on theorizing: Our social theories need to be compatible with the ontology, and we need to be confident that the social entities and forces that we postulate depend upon microfoundations at the level of social actors (whether or not we can specify those microfoundations). Third, “actor-centered sociology” represents a heuristic about where to focus at least some of our research energy and attention: at the ordinary processes and relations through which social activity take place, the ordinary people who bring them about, and the ordinary concatenations through which the effects of action and interaction aggregate to higher levels of social organization.
This view can be spelled out in a number of observations:
a. The premise of actor-centered sociology means that sociological theory needs to recognize and incorporate the idea that all social facts and structures derive from the activities and interactions of socially constructed individual actors. It is meta-theoretically improper to bring forward ...