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Social “Mechanisms” And Comparative-Historical Sociology: A Critical Realist Proposal

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Chapter Summary

This chapter outlines some of the key tenets of critical realism. Then it discusses a number of fallacies that arise when we think about causal mechanisms too mechanistically, using two paradigmatic mechanisms-the clock and the pin factory-as illustrative examples. The chapter introduces definition of mechanisms as emergent causal powers of related entities within a system, which the author refers to as the ECPRES model. It compares the ECPRES model with other models, specificially those developed by rational-choice theorists and structuralists, arguing that these models are ontologically inadequate and/or logically incoherent, even in their most developed and nuanced forms. Finally, in the conclusion the chapter enumerate and reflect on some of the issues facing a mechanismic approach to social science.

Keywords: critical realism; ECPRES model; social mechanisms; social science



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