Handbook of Sociological Science: Contributions to Rigorous Sociology

Rethinking Sociology series
Hardcover
: 552 pages
Publisher: Edward Elgar Publishing
Year: 2022
Language: English

Edited by

Klarita Gërxhani, Professor of Sociology, Department of Political and Social Sciences, European University Institute (EUI), Italy

Nan Dirk de Graaf, Professor of Sociology and Official Fellow, Nuffield College, University of Oxford, UK

Werner Raub, Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology/ICS, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

The Handbook of Sociological Science offers a refreshing, integrated perspective on research programs and ongoing developments in sociological science. It highlights key shared theoretical and methodological features, thereby contributing to progress and cumulative growth of sociological knowledge.

Reflecting ‘unity in diversity’, chapters explore a wide variety of research fields, ranging from cultural capital, migration, social networks, gender inequality, historical sociology and ethnography to the intersection of sociology and the life sciences. Examining basic methodological standards for theory construction and empirical research, the Handbook exemplifies commonalities between research programmes within these fields.

The contributors also explore rigorous sociology related to theory construction, empirical research, and methods, including statistical modelling and the integration of theoretical and empirical research. Forward-thinking and original, the Handbook concludes by illustrating the common core of rigorous sociology, how it can contribute to understanding societal problems and to policy making, and how research into sociological science can continue to thrive in the future.

Accessible and engaging, this Handbook will be invaluable for scholars and researchers of sociology and sociological theory, research methods in sociology and social policy, and comparative social policy. Exploring new developments and applications, it will also act as a useful reference guide for policy makers. The Handbook will likewise be an important resource for teaching advanced courses and training graduate students.

Book Review

The Handbook of Sociological Science is an important collection of chapters exploring the important issue of what constitutes rigorous science in sociology. The Handbook tackles issues of pluralism and scientific progress, delving into theory building and the reproducibility of empirical research. The editors and authors of the introduction, Werner Raub, Nan Dirk de Graaf, and Klarita Gërxhani, discuss the problems of fragmentation in sociology with a multitude of approaches that do not share a common core of basic methodological standards for theoretical and empirical work. Their proposed solution is rigor, which is always a vital quality of any inquiry. For the authors of this Handbook, rigor comes from scientific sociology, which often, though not always, is based on methodological individualism and rational choice. The contributing authors are many of the most important scholars in this field and their contributions would be useful for anyone who takes this ontological approach to sociology.

Other Notable Editorial Reviews

‘The Handbook of Sociological Science offers an overview of theories, models, and methods in sociology including future developments with an explicit focus on a scientific approach to sociological inquiry.’
– R.M., Population and Development Review

‘This is an ambitious, comprehensive, and much-needed Handbook that aims to bring back rigor to the current practice of sociology. The emphasis is on rigor, not old battles of theory versus empiricism or quantitative versus qualitative research. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to conduct or understand sociological research.’
– Yu Xie, Bert G. Kerstetter ‘66 University Professor of Sociology, Princeton University and Visiting Chair Professor of Center for Social Research, Peking University

‘This ambitious book tackles the challenge posed by the fragmentation of 21st-century sociology. Arguing that knowledge accumulation is possible if sociologists reach consensus on a common core of methodological standards, the authors construct a tent large enough to encompass multiple subfields and theoretical approaches. The result is inspired sociological research at its best.’
– Mary C. Brinton, Reischauer Institute Professor of Sociology, Harvard University

‘This Handbook covers substantive areas from sociogenomics to climate change and methodological issues from causal inference with observational data to rigorous ethnography and reproducibility. This is sociology at its best.’
– Karl Ulrich Mayer, Max Planck Institute for Human Development Berlin and Yale University

‘The Handbook of Sociological Science: Contributions to Rigorous Sociology seeks to demonstrate that explanatory sociology is possible, even with the diversity of opinion about the prospects of scientific sociological inquiry. The editors and authors use the rubric—rigorous sociology—to avoid arousing the overdrawn debates revolving around whether or not sociology can be a true science. The editors clearly understand the fragmented nature of much sociology and, thus, have sought to collect 26 chapters from scholars working in different areas of specialization using different methodologies and theoretical frameworks to illustrate that sociology can have, at the very least, a consistent core of shared methodologies and theoretical approaches that can integrate rather than divide and partition sociological inquiry.

Every serious sociologist pursuing knowledge about the nature of the social universe—whether graduate student, academic scholar, practitioner, and even interested lay scholars—will find this book useful because it illustrates rather than preaches what a rigorous approach to assembling can produce: a large body of cumulative knowledge about the fundamental properties and processes of the social universe. Most of the authors in this volume seek in their own unique ways to be rigorous in their empirical and theoretical investigations, whether at the micro, meso, or macro levels of human social organization. The nature of theorizing in sociology can thus vary in style and focus, as can the methodologies used to test theories or to report empirical data, but in the end, the simple criterion of rigor will integrate rather than divide scholarship in the discipline and, indeed, the social sciences as a whole.

Thus, whatever the level of inquiry (micro, meso, or macro), whatever the methodological approach (qualitative or quantitative, experimental or ethnographic) for collecting data, and whatever the scope, range, and modes of theorizing (formal or discursive), there must be rigor in how knowledge is to be accumulated; and this rigor will contribute to a science of sociology that unites rather than divides sociologists. Sociology and sociologists can thus be diverse in their approaches and orientations but still have a common or shared purpose to explain theoretically how the social universe operates and to verify these explanations with diverse collections of data. For, in reality, most sociologists share a common interest in achieving this goal through a variety of routes, and if modes of inquiry and theorizing are rigorous, then sociology can become more coherent and scientific. Commitment to rigorous analysis is what will unite the diversity of approaches and topics in sociology. And indeed, what the chapters of this book clearly illustrate is that there are many ways to be rigorous but, at the same time, pursuit of rigor will ultimately realize the ultimate goal of all of the social sciences: explaining the operative dynamics of the social universe. And, if sociologists commit to the rigor involved in achieving this goal, they will be in a better position to use knowledge in applied applications for human and societal betterment.’
– Jonathan H. Turner, 38th University Professor, University of California

Purchase online

The eBook version is priced from £20/$26 from eBook vendors while in print the book can be ordered from the Edward Elgar Publishing website.

22 out of the 26 Chapters are available Open Access on Elgaronline under the terms of a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 License. The complete Handbook containing all 26 chapters is available on Google Play (guide price £10) here: https://bit.ly/3R6pQjr

Contents

INTRODUCTION

1. Rigorous sociology 2
Werner Raub, Nan Dirk de Graaf, and Klarita Gërxhani

PART I RESEARCH PROGRAMS

2. Order from chaos: sociology as a population science 21
Michelle Jackson

3. Analytical sociology 38
Gianluca Manzo

4. Computational approaches in rigorous sociology: agent-based computational modeling and computational social science 57
Andreas Flache, Michael Mäs, and Marijn A. Keijzer

5. Stochastic network modeling as generative social science 73
Christian E.G. Steglich and Tom A.B. Snijders

6. Rational choice sociology: heuristic potential, applications, and limitations 100
Andreas Diekmann

PART II NEW AND ONGOING DEVELOPMENTS IN SELECTED FIELDS

7. Cultural capital and educational inequality: an assessment of the state of the art 121
Mads Meier Jæger

8. Integration in migration societies 135
Frank Kalter

9. Social networks: effects and formation 154
Vincent Buskens, Rense Corten, and Werner Raub

10. Gender inequality, households, and work 176
Eva Jaspers, Tanja van der Lippe, and Marie Evertsson

11. Validation strategies in historical sociology (and beyond) 196
Ivan Ermakoff

12. Rigorous ethnography 215
Federico Varese

13. Evolution, biology, and society 232
Rosemary L. Hopcroft, Joseph Dippong, Hexuan Liu, and Rachel Kail

14. Sociogenomics: theoretical and empirical challenges of integrating molecular genetics into sociological thinking 250
Melinda C. Mills

PART III METHODS

15. Causal inference with observational data 272
Richard Breen

16. Longitudinal designs and models for causal inference 287
Markus Gangl

17. Experimental sociology 309
Klarita Gërxhani and Luis Miller

PART IV RIGOROUS SOCIOLOGY IN ACTION: SHOWCASES

18. Explaining educational differentials: towards a formal rational action theory 325
Richard Breen and John H. Goldthorpe

19. ‘Explaining educational differentials’ revisited: an evaluation of rigorous theoretical foundations and empirical findings 356
Rolf Becker

20. Structural holes and good ideas 372
Ronald S. Burt

21. Network mechanisms in innovation: borrowing and sparking ideas around structural holes 423
Balazs Vedres

22. Experimental study of inequality and unpredictability in an artificial cultural market 443
Matthew J. Salganik, Peter Sheridan Dodds, and Duncan J. Watts

23. Self-correcting dynamics in social influence processes 446
Arnout van de Rijt

PART V FURTHER PERSPECTIVES

24. The climate crisis: what sociology can contribute 475
Dingeman Wiertz and Nan Dirk de Graaf

25. Roots of sociology as a science: some history of ideas 493
Thomas Voss

26. How to increase reproducibility and credibility of sociological research 512
Katrin Auspurg and Josef Brüderl

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