Centre d’Études Sociologiques de la Sorbonne (CESS)
Groupe d’Étude des Méthodes de l’Analyse Sociologique (GEMAS)
Social Mechanisms and Analytical Sociology
17-18 october 2008
Université Paris-Sorbonne - Maison de la Recherche
28 rue Serpente, 75006 PARIS - Salle D035
Métro : Odéon ou Saint-Michel
The concept of mechanism has been widely used throughout the history of social sciences in general and in sociology in particular. Most classical writers of sociological tradition (for instance Tocqueville, Marx, Durkheim or Weber) can be said to have spontaneously built some mechanism-based explanations.
Nevertheless, the notion of mechanism has been rarely explored as such. A critical change occurred with the 1996 Stockholm conference which focused on the concept of social mechanism itself. Since, this intellectual movement has continued to expand. A renewed attention to the concept seems to be in progress also in economics, in political science, in history or in criminology.
In sociology, the concept of mechanism has been moreover linked to the notion of “analytical” sociology and, more recently, to some computational methods. These developments generate a new specific literature, but give birth to a new series of problems (as, for example, the rapport between ”analytical sociology” and “analytical philosophy’, or the relation between “analytical sociology” and quantitative, mathematical or computational sociology).
Ten years after the papers published in Social Mechanisms: an Analytical Approach to Social Theory it is time to have a new synthesis, and explore the difficulties that appeared through the recent developments of the approach.
The conference aims to do it from four points of view: - theoretical, regarding the kind of action, reasons and interactions that the concept of mechanism supposes, and regarding its differences in relation to concepts such as “process” and “narrative”;
- methodological, regarding the ways to implement the concept of mechanisms for empirical research and policy analysis;
- epistemological, considering its implications for the debate about causality and realism;
- historical, regarding the use of the concept in history of sociological thought.