Methodological Individualism (propaganda)

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Individuals always exist within and are entwined with societies. Actually adhering to methodological individualism would mean ignoring families, households, corporations, governments and all other social groups in analysis. It is obviously stupid to ignore these sorts of emergent properties. Methodological individualism also blinkers us to social interactions. A greedy reductionist (in the words of Daniel Dennett) attempt to oppose "collectivist" theories with invalid models of atomistic individuals.


Philosophical Individualism (7 links)
Individualism is merely one viewpoint in an enormous hierarchy of viewpoints ranging from Planck length to the universe. Individualism as a tenet of a philosophy transforms that philosophy into a Procrustean bed that cannot model the real world well, because the real world is not based on individuals.
A Dim View of Libertarianism, Part II: The Myth of Social Atomism [More...]
The liberal replies that this denial of the very existence of “society” and “the public” is reductionism, plain and simple – what the Brits call “nothing-buttery.” It is comparable to saying that Hamlet is “nothing but” words, that Beethoven’s music is “nothing but” notes, that the Mona Lisa is “nothing but” pigments on canvas, and that the human brain is “nothing but” cells and electro-chemical events.
Assemblage Theory (2 links)
Assemblages are individuals: historically unique persistent configurations. Much as are individual humans, but on a different scale with different components. Libertarians get it wrong that human individuals are the only valuable subjects of study. Assemblage theory is not reductionist: it recognizes emergent properties.
Bibliography on Methodological Individualism [More...]
A critical, extended bibliography.
Hodgson on Methodological Individualism [More...]
What is it about complex social relations that invalidates both “methodological individualism” [...] The answer is “emergent properties” [...]
Methodological individualism today [More...]
"In my view, the only claims about methodological individualism that seem unequivocally plausible today are the ontological requirements -- the various formulations of the notion that social things are composed of the actions and thoughts of individuals and nothing else... As pragmatist sociologists are now arguing, there are compelling theories of the actor that do not privilege the model of conscious deliberative choice."
Must Macroeconomic Theories Have Microfoundations? [More...]
Cosma Shalizi explains at length why the answer is "not necessarily". Undermines arguments for methodological individualism of Austrian Economics.
The social world [More...]
"Methodological individualism is not a valid basis for the social science."
There's no such thing as society… only individuals and families. (4 links)
This famous Margaret Thatcher quote is philosophical twaddle. The same principle then applies to government, corporations, religions, etc. It is based on the unscientific and fallacious claim that individuals are the only valid level of analysis, common to the methodological individualism of Austrian Economics.


Milton Friedman asks us to think of a tree, with leaves, in the sunlight. Consider the density of the leaves around different parts of the tree. “I suggest,” says Friedman, “that the leaves are positioned as if each leaf deliberately sought to maximize the amount of sunlight it receives, given the position of its neighbors, as if it knew the physical laws determining the amount of sunlight that would be received in various positions and could move rapidly or instantaneously from any one position to any other desired and unoccupied position.” And thus we are distracted from the fact that in real life whole branches die off to achieve this distribution. And other trees are killed as their light is cut off.
Mike Huben, "Mike Huben's Criticisms"