ABSTRACT

The introduction explains the significance of the "battle of methods" that pitted the founders of methodological individualism (MI) against various forms of historicism that dominated the 19th century and fed the extremisms of the 20th century. The proponents of MI opposed the use of abstract social constructs to account for the influence of social factors on individual actions through the same types of causes as in the natural sciences. Conversely, they emphasized the importance of understanding the situational features that underlie individuals’ reasons for acting and of analyzing the effects, especially the unintended ones, that result from the combination of their actions.

In addition, this introduction accounts for the development of the individualist method through references to its founding texts, especially those proposed in the next four chapters of the book, and explains the relationships among their authors. An examination of the historical rise of MI and the arguments of its founders and proponents reveals its purely methodological focus, devoid of any moral or political bias, its non-reductionist epistemological stance, and its intrinsic ties to the “understanding” sociology.