Handbook of Sociological Science


Handbook of Sociological Science

Contributions to Rigorous Sociology

9781035323814 Edward Elgar Publishing
Edited by Klarita Gërxhani, Professor in Socio-Economics, School of Business and Economics, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Nan Dirk de Graaf, Professor of Sociology and Official Fellow, Nuffield College, University of Oxford, UK and Werner Raub, Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology/ICS, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
Publication Date: 2023 ISBN: 978 1 03532 381 4 Extent: 552 pp
The Handbook of Sociological Science offers a refreshing, integrated perspective on research programs and ongoing developments in sociological science. It highlights key shared theoretical and methodological features, thereby contributing to progress and cumulative growth of sociological knowledge.

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The Handbook of Sociological Science offers a refreshing, integrated perspective on research programs and ongoing developments in sociological science. It highlights key shared theoretical and methodological features, thereby contributing to progress and cumulative growth of sociological knowledge.

Reflecting ‘unity in diversity’, chapters explore a wide variety of research fields, ranging from cultural capital, migration, social networks, gender inequality, historical sociology and ethnography to the intersection of sociology and the life sciences. Examining basic methodological standards for theory construction and empirical research, the Handbook exemplifies commonalities between research programmes within these fields.

The contributors also explore rigorous sociology related to theory construction, empirical research, and methods, including statistical modelling and the integration of theoretical and empirical research. Forward-thinking and original, the Handbook concludes by illustrating the common core of rigorous sociology, how it can contribute to understanding societal problems and to policy making, and how research into sociological science can continue to thrive in the future.

Accessible and engaging, this Handbook will be invaluable for scholars and researchers of sociology and sociological theory, research methods in sociology and social policy, and comparative social policy. Exploring new developments and applications, it will also act as a useful reference guide for policy makers. The Handbook will likewise be an important resource for teaching advanced courses and training graduate students.
Critical Acclaim
‘In the Handbook of Sociological Science, one is treated to a wide range of examples of contemporary sociology at its best—and most rigorous. The Handbook’s scope is stunning: it covers diverse approaches and topics, including cultural capital, the gender division of labor in the home, rational choice theory, stochastic network modeling, analytical sociology, ethnography, sociogenomics, historical sociology, and evolutionary sociology, among others. Rigorous sociology (i.e., practicing sociological scientists) can be found everywhere.’
– Jesper B. Sorensen, Contemporary Sociology

‘The Handbook of Sociological Science offers an overview of theories, models, and methods in sociology including future developments with an explicit focus on a scientific approach to sociological inquiry.’
– R.M., Population and Development Review

‘This is an ambitious, comprehensive, and much-needed Handbook that aims to bring back rigor to the current practice of sociology. The emphasis is on rigor, not old battles of theory versus empiricism or quantitative versus qualitative research. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to conduct or understand sociological research.’
– Yu Xie, Bert G. Kerstetter ‘66 University Professor of Sociology, Princeton University and Visiting Chair Professor of Center for Social Research, Peking University

‘This ambitious book tackles the challenge posed by the fragmentation of 21st-century sociology. Arguing that knowledge accumulation is possible if sociologists reach consensus on a common core of methodological standards, the authors construct a tent large enough to encompass multiple subfields and theoretical approaches. The result is inspired sociological research at its best.’
– Mary C. Brinton, Reischauer Institute Professor of Sociology, Harvard University

‘This Handbook covers substantive areas from sociogenomics to climate change and methodological issues from causal inference with observational data to rigorous ethnography and reproducibility. This is sociology at its best.’
– Karl Ulrich Mayer, Max Planck Institute for Human Development Berlin and Yale University

‘The Handbook of Sociological Science: Contributions to Rigorous Sociology seeks to demonstrate that explanatory sociology is possible, even with the diversity of opinion about the prospects of scientific sociological inquiry. The editors and authors use the rubric—rigorous sociology—to avoid arousing the overdrawn debates revolving around whether or not sociology can be a true science. The editors clearly understand the fragmented nature of much sociology and, thus, have sought to collect 26 chapters from scholars working in different areas of specialization using different methodologies and theoretical frameworks to illustrate that sociology can have, at the very least, a consistent core of shared methodologies and theoretical approaches that can integrate rather than divide and partition sociological inquiry.

Every serious sociologist pursuing knowledge about the nature of the social universe—whether graduate student, academic scholar, practitioner, and even interested lay scholars—will find this book useful because it illustrates rather than preaches what a rigorous approach to assembling can produce: a large body of cumulative knowledge about the fundamental properties and processes of the social universe. Most of the authors in this volume seek in their own unique ways to be rigorous in their empirical and theoretical investigations, whether at the micro, meso, or macro levels of human social organization. The nature of theorizing in sociology can thus vary in style and focus, as can the methodologies used to test theories or to report empirical data, but in the end, the simple criterion of rigor will integrate rather than divide scholarship in the discipline and, indeed, the social sciences as a whole.

Thus, whatever the level of inquiry (micro, meso, or macro), whatever the methodological approach (qualitative or quantitative, experimental or ethnographic) for collecting data, and whatever the scope, range, and modes of theorizing (formal or discursive), there must be rigor in how knowledge is to be accumulated; and this rigor will contribute to a science of sociology that unites rather than divides sociologists. Sociology and sociologists can thus be diverse in their approaches and orientations but still have a common or shared purpose to explain theoretically how the social universe operates and to verify these explanations with diverse collections of data. For, in reality, most sociologists share a common interest in achieving this goal through a variety of routes, and if modes of inquiry and theorizing are rigorous, then sociology can become more coherent and scientific. Commitment to rigorous analysis is what will unite the diversity of approaches and topics in sociology. And indeed, what the chapters of this book clearly illustrate is that there are many ways to be rigorous but, at the same time, pursuit of rigor will ultimately realize the ultimate goal of all of the social sciences: explaining the operative dynamics of the social universe. And, if sociologists commit to the rigor involved in achieving this goal, they will be in a better position to use knowledge in applied applications for human and societal betterment.’
– Jonathan H. Turner, 38th University Professor, University of California

Contributors: Katrin Auspurg, Rolf Becker, Richard Breen, Josef Brüderl, Ronald S. Burt, Vincent Buskens, Rense Corten, Nan Dirk de Graaf, Andreas Diekmann, Joseph Dippong, Peter Sheridan Dodds, Ivan Ermakoff, Marie Evertsson, Andreas Flache, Markus Gangl, Klarita Gërxhani, John Goldthorpe, Rosemary Hopcroft, Michelle Jackson, Eva Jaspers, Mads Meier Jæger, Rachel Kail, Frank Kalter, Marijn A. Keijzer, Hexuan Liu, Gianluca Manzo, Michael Mäs, Luis Miller, Melinda Mills, Werner Raub, Matthew J. Salganik, Tom A.B. Snijders, Christian E.G. Steglich, Arnout van de Rijt, Tanja van der Lippe, Federico Varese, Balazs Vedres, Thomas Voss, Duncan J. Watts, Dingeman Wiertz


1. Rigorous sociology 2
Werner Raub, Nan Dirk de Graaf, and Klarita Gërxhani

2. Order from chaos: sociology as a population science 21
Michelle Jackson
3. Analytical sociology 38
Gianluca Manzo
4. Computational approaches in rigorous sociology: agent-based computational
modeling and computational social science 57
Andreas Flache, Michael Mäs, and Marijn A. Keijzer
5. Stochastic network modeling as generative social science 73
Christian E.G. Steglich and Tom A.B. Snijders
6. Rational choice sociology: heuristic potential, applications, and limitations 100
Andreas Diekmann

7. Cultural capital and educational inequality: an assessment of the state of
the art 121
Mads Meier Jæger
8. Integration in migration societies 135
Frank Kalter
9. Social networks: effects and formation 154
Vincent Buskens, Rense Corten, and Werner Raub
10. Gender inequality, households, and work 176
Eva Jaspers, Tanja van der Lippe, and Marie Evertsson
11. Validation strategies in historical sociology (and beyond) 196
Ivan Ermakoff
12. Rigorous ethnography 215
Federico Varese
13. Evolution, biology, and society 232
Rosemary L. Hopcroft, Joseph Dippong, Hexuan Liu, and Rachel Kail
14. Sociogenomics: theoretical and empirical challenges of integrating molecular
genetics into sociological thinking 250
Melinda C. Mills

15. Causal inference with observational data 272
Richard Breen
16. Longitudinal designs and models for causal inference 287
Markus Gangl
17. Experimental sociology 309
Klarita Gërxhani and Luis Miller

18. Explaining educational differentials: towards a formal rational action
theory 325
Richard Breen and John H. Goldthorpe
19. ‘Explaining educational differentials’ revisited: an evaluation of rigorous
theoretical foundations and empirical findings 356
Rolf Becker
20. Structural holes and good ideas 372
Ronald S. Burt
21. Network mechanisms in innovation: borrowing and sparking ideas around
structural holes 423
Balazs Vedres
22. Experimental study of inequality and unpredictability in an artificial
cultural market 443
Matthew J. Salganik, Peter Sheridan Dodds, and Duncan J. Watts
23. Self-correcting dynamics in social influence processes 446
Arnout van de Rijt

24. The climate crisis: what sociology can contribute 475
Dingeman Wiertz and Nan Dirk de Graaf
25. Roots of sociology as a science: some history of ideas 493
Thomas Voss
26. How to increase reproducibility and credibility of sociological research 512
Katrin Auspurg and Josef Brüderl

Index 528
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