Constructing a scientific explanation in anthropology on the principles of methodological individualism

  • Suzana Ignjatović Institute fof Social Sciences, Belgrade
  • Aleksandar Bošković Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade and Institute of Social Sciences, Belgrade,
methodological individualism, methodological holism, scientific explanation, cognitivism, agency


The paper deals with methodological individualism in sociocultural anthropology. Key theories and debates within the framework of methodological individualism in anthropology are presented in the paper. The authors discuss criticisms aimed at the use of methodological individualism in anthropology as not suitable for anthropology, due to its specificity. Instead, they argue that methodological individualism has advantages for a better understanding of many anthropological topics, especially compared to methodological holism. The authors’ assumption is that anthropology is not exclusively a holistic science, as the history of anthropological theory points to an important tradition of methodological individualism. The focus is placed on alternative models of scientific explanation, found in the works of contemporary anthropologists (Holy, Stuchlik), as well as methodological individualists from other disciplines (Boudon), whose conclusions are applicable to anthropology. Methodological individualism does have a significant place in anthropology. There are areas of anthropology that can draw heuristic benefit from epistemological approaches based on the principles of methodological individualism.


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