Skip to main content

Constructing Social Theories

Constructing Social Theories presents to the reader a range of strategies for constructing theories, and in a clear, rigorous, and imaginative manner, illustrates how they can be applied. Arthur L. Stinchcombe argues that theories should not be invented in the abstract—or applied a priori to a problem—but should be dictated by the nature of the data to be explained. This work was awarded the Sorokin prize by the American Sociological Association as the book that made an outstanding contribution to the progress of sociology in 1970.

320 pages | 5.375 x 8.5 | © 1968

Sociology: General Sociology, History of Sociology, Theory and Sociology of Knowledge

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
The Status of Explanations Proposed
Empirical Derivations from Explanations
The Development of the Book
Concluding Comments
2. The Logic of Scientific Inference
I. Fundamental Forms of Scientific Inference
Theoretical and Empirical Statements
Testing Theories with Observations
Multiple Tests of Theories
The Fundamental Criterion of a Strong Test of Theory
Two Very General Alternative Theories: Statistical Inference
The Crucial Experiment
II. The Structure of Causal Theories
Definition of Variables
Definition of Causal Laws
Observation in Support of Causal Theories
III. Scientific Concepts
Change of Concepts as Theories Change
Conceptualization of Variables
Types as a Convenience in Talking About Interaction Effects
IV. Levels of Generality in Social Theory
An Outline of Levels of Generality
Levels of Critiques
V. Conclusions
3. Complex Causal Structures: Demographic, Functional, and Historicist Explanations of Social Phenomena
I. Demographic Explanations of Social Phenomena
The Simplest Integrated Demographic Theory: Population Growth with Negligible Reproductive Cycles
A More Complex Integrated Demographic Theory
Incomplete or Open Demographic Explanations: Rates, Quantities, and Proportions
Demographic Explanation Summarized
II. Functional Causal Imagery
Indications for the Use of Functional Imagery
Types of Social Selection Processes
The Logic of Functional Explanation
A Comment on the Conservative Nature of Functional Explanation
Marxian Functionalism: Functional Arguments in a System of Unequal Power
III. Historicist Causal Imagery
The Causal Structure of Historicist Explanations
"Survivals" and Functional Explanations
Empirical Derivations from Functional Historicism
Institutions and Historicist Explanations
Summary of Empirical Derivations from Institutional-Historicist Theories
Historical Causes in Institutional-Historicist Explanations
Institutional and Functional Historicism
Sunk Costs and Historicist Explanations
The Conditions of the Permanence of Resources
The Historical Sources of Sunk Costs
Micro-historicism and Cohort Analysis
IV. The Problem of the Choice of Variables in Causal Explanations
Technical Appendix to Chapter Three / The Linear Directed Graph Approach to Complex Causal Structures
The Basic Idea of a Linear Graph
Chain or Cascade Graphs
Reduction of More Complex Graphs
Loops in Linear Graphs
The Relations Between Tensions and Homeostasis in Functional Structures
The Relation Between Tension and Structure Activity
A Formal Representation of Marxian Functionalism Loops
Not Touching the Causal Path
The General Solution for Graph Transmittance
4. The Conceptualization of Power Phenomena
I. Rights in Things and Rights in Persons
Individual Powers
Corporate Powers
II. Legitimacy of Powers
The Nesting of Power
Doctrines of Legitimacy
A Concept of Legitimacy
III. An Information Conception of Power
Decisions and Information
Prices in Markets as Information
Features of Price Systems
Situational Variations in Power
The Logical Structure of Information Concepts
IV. Political Incorporation
Political Isolation and Incorporation
The Components of Political Access
The Incorporation of the German Proletariat
The Construction of a Concept of Incorporation
Some Difficulties
The Logical Structure of the Concept
V. Institutions and Institutional Integration
Values and Power
A Correlation Concept of Institutions
Institutional Areas and Rank-related Power
Institutional Conflict
The Logical Structure of the Concept of Institutions
VI. The Creation of Organizations
The Dispersion of Powers Needed by Projects
Proposals and the Assembly of Powers
Feasible Coalitions
Forming Coalitions
The Logical Structure of Feasible Sets
VII. Conclusions
5. The Conceptualization of Environmental Effects
I. The Basic Logical Form of Environmental Explanations
An Example: Elections and Consensus
A Formal Statement of Environmental Effects
II. Environmental Psychological Effects
Group Culture and Individual Attitudes
Refining the Mapping Variable
Identifying Group Cultures
III. The Demography of Opportunity
The Structural Determinants of Vacant Positions
The Opportunity of Individuals
Opportunity in Bureaucracies
Demographic Predictors of Training
IV. Aspiration as a Mapping Variable
Sex Variation in Aspirations
Rebellion and Aspiration
V. Geopolitical Concepts and Military Vulnerability
The Territorial Aspect of Power
The Causes of Vulnerability
Summed Vulnerability
Mapping Vulnerabilities
Derived Geopolitical Concepts
Some Applications of the Conceptual Apparatus
The Logic of Potential Concepts
VI. Conclusions
6. Concepts About the Structure of Activities
I. The Structure of Attention
Spatial Aspects of Attention Regulation
Causal Significance of Monopoly of Focus of Attention
The Temporal "Size" of a Group and Group Influence
Aggregate Effects of Group Activity on the Environment
The Schedule and Agenda of Group Attention
Power and Agenda-making in Groups of Different Structure
The Logical Structure of Attention Concepts
II. Activities Concepts Built on the Variance
The Significance of Variability
The Logical Structure of Variance-related Concepts
III. Space-related Concepts and the Ecological Analysis of Activities
Space and the Causal Connection Between Activities
The General Concept of External Effects
Types of External Effects
General Concept-forming Strategy for External Effects
Networks, Nodes, and Commerce: Some Empirical Food for Thought
Conceptual Formulations of Nodal Concepts
General Strategies for Concepts on Networks
Concluding Comments

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press