The literature on methodological individualism is characterized by two widely held assumptions: first that most formulations of the doctrine have been inadequate and enigmatic; and secondly that if the doctrine were to be stated with sufficient care it would be seen to be trivially true. In this work, Dr Bhargava challenges the second of these assumptions. He begins by disentangling the different forms of methodological individualism, and then shows that even in its most plausible version it is neither trivial, nor obviously true. He argues that assertions of its trivially true character are merely rhetorical devices, concealing deeper ontological and methodological issues that divide the individualist from the non-individualist. Both agree that actions are partly constituted by beliefs, but for the individualist beliefs are mental attitudes individuated wholly in terms of what lies within the individual mind, whereas for the non-individualist beliefs also lie embedded in social practice, and must be partly individuated in relation to social contexts.
The author argues that, once the key individualist assumption is challenged, the way is clear for a rehabilitation of a non-indivdualist methodology which permits an independent study of social contexts, and a contextual study of the beliefs and actions of individuals.
'this book is one of the most accomplished works critiquing Methodological Individualism that has appeared anywhere ... the book will deservedly establish a major international reputation for the author ... Setting such a high standard, however, can be both rewarding and frustrating. Rewarding in obvious ways and frustrating because mediocrity is rarely comfortable recognising excellence.'
Achin Vanaik, Indian Express, May 1993
'This is a dense, scholarly work. Though its focus is precise, it touches upon a number of crucial debates in philosophy. The author introduces remarkable conceptual clarity in teasing out various strands of methodological individualism.'
Jyotirmay Sharma, Financial Express, March 1993
'certainly the most sophisticated and thorough work written from an anti-individualistic point of view ... The book's most admirable property is its judiciousness.'
The Philosophical Quarterly, 1994
`a very good book ... one that is clear, very carefully argued, well-organized, with a firm mastery of the relevant literature, and breath-taking from cover to cover. ... his presentations are always sufficiently detailed and his re-constructions precise and sophisticated. ... he certainly succeeds in reassembling the issues which urgently deserve careful examination by social scientists and philosophers and, in so doing, is setting the agenda for new
debates in contemporary social science. I strongly recommend the book to every one who thinks that something can be improved in that domain, and still more strongly to those who think the opposite.'
Canadian Journal of Philosophy, vol.26, no.2, June 1996
Introduction; Part 1. Methodological individualism; Forms of methodological individualism; Part 2. The limits of explanatory individualism; Methodological individualism as a form of reductionism; Methodological individualism and the D-N model; Methodological individualism : intentionalism; Part 3. The limits of ontological individualism; The social dimension of meaning; The non-individualist challenge: contextualism