Levels of the social [chapter]

Daniel Little
2007 Philosophy of Anthropology and Sociology  
The frame We can characterize "the social" from the concrete level of individuals in specific relations, to the global structures and institutions that constitute the modern world systemwith many stops in between. Social phenomena can be analyzed through a wide variety of contrasts: individual versus institutional, face-to-face versus anonymous, local versus distant, economic versus political, experiential versus structural, immediate versus nested, and many other dimensions of contrast. Do
more » ... e distinctions represent different levels of social phenomena? Are there distinguishable levels of organization within the domain of the social-perhaps from "close to the actor" to "distant", simple to complex, or from concrete to abstract? How do familiar objects of social science investigation like systems of norms, social networks, local social units, families, labor organizations, practices, organizations, institutions, and political or economic structures fit into these questions of level within our conception of the social? And how about causation? Can we assert causal connections from one level to another? Do high-level social structures have causal powers? Do they have effects on local behavior and local institutions? The task for this paper is to consider how to think rigorously about these levels within the social and within social science conceptualizing.
doi:10.1016/b978-044451542-1/50010-6 fatcat:2bnmgqjmdfcsfdoxakscqgmewu