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Individualism Versus Holism

By: Alban Bouvier | Edited by: Paul Atkinson, Sara Delamont, Alexandru Cernat, Joseph W. Sakshaug & Richard A. Williams Published: 2019 | Length:   5 | DOI: |
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The conceptual relationship between “individualism” and “holism” is one of the most vexing issues in the social sciences. Individualism and holism (from the Greek holos, meaning “whole”) can be used to characterize both societies and methodologies. While these issues are related, the distinction between them is quite complex. This entry focuses on the second issue and addresses the first only indirectly. Methodological individualism (MI) emerged in the social sciences in the late 19th century as a critical viewpoint. Roughly speaking, MI claims that one should always consider social phenomena—including groups, institutions, and social structures (e.g., social stratification)—as products of human actions and interactions. As a consequence, one should never assume that collective concepts, such as “German nation,” “Roman Catholic Church,” “Soviet Communism,” or “Western capitalism,” ...

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