Nathalie BULLE, Methodological Individualism. Introduction and Founding Texts, London: Routledge, 2024

Methodological individualism (MI) is a fundamental approach in the social sciences that seeks to explain social phenomena in terms of the meaningful actions of individuals. Based on an understanding of the situational characteristics that underlie individuals’ reasons for acting, MI proposes to analyze the consequences, especially unintended ones, that result from the combination of their actions.
MI emerged at the end of the nineteenth century in opposition to historicism that dominated the nineteenth century and fed the extremisms of the twentieth century. In this context, its proponents developed its basic principles as the primary alternative to holist approaches that bring into play abstract social constructs supposed to influence individual actions through the same types of causes as in the natural sciences.
This book, Methodological Individualism: Introduction and Founding Texts, illuminates the theoretical foundations of MI as defined and developed in the writings of its founders and proponents amidst some of the liveliest methodological debates in the social sciences. The book addresses core issues, such as the distinction between explanation in the social and natural sciences, the relationships between social wholes and their constituent parts, the rational bases for understanding social action, and the connections between social concepts and the phenomenal world. An examination of the historical rise of MI and the arguments of its founders and proponents reveals its purely methodological focus, devoid of any moral or political bias, its non-reductionist epistemological stance and its intrinsic ties to “understanding” sociology.
Scholars and students will find this book invaluable as it provides key insights into one of the paramount paradigms in the social sciences. It aims to correct misconceptions and foster a deeper understanding of MI as a powerful and worthwhile approach to explaining social phenomena.