Does analytical sociology practice what it preaches? An assessment of analytical sociology through the Merton award
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The principles and the methods of analytical sociology have been under elaboration and critical discussion over the last twenty-five years. In this chapter, I synthetically reconstructed the progressive evolution of analytical sociology on a meta-theoretical level and showed that analytical sociology is currently predicated under various programs and sub-programs. Then, with the aim to assess what analytical sociology has delivered in practice so far, I investigated the eleven journal articles that have received the Merton award (or an honorable mention for it), the prize the International Network of Analytical Sociology created in 2012 to recognize annually the best article in analytical sociology. In particular, I investigated the type of explananda these articles studied, the form and the content of their explanatory machinery, the way they combined data and methods to connect the explanans to the explanandum, and the extent to which they referred to rational choices theories and/or to “anomalous” concepts for analytical sociology. The analysis showed that the Merton awarded articles rarely referred to analytical sociology’s manifestos explicitly but applied in practice all the theoretical principles and, to a large extent, the methodological principles, too, those manifestos progressively codified. The analysis also revealed that analytical sociology’s substantive investigations are less engaged with rational choices theories, and are characterized by a higher level of theoretical pluralism, than critics of analytical sociology are usually ready to admit. Careful inspection of the Merton awarded articles finally suggested five guidelines for the further development of substantive works inspired by analytical sociology. The present Handbook is presented as a resource to pursue this goal.

Edited by Gianluca Manzo