Sociology Index

Methodological Holism

Methodological Individualism

Methodological holism is an orientation in research and analysis where the aim is to understand the phenomenon under investigation in its totality as unique and apart from its component parts, rather than to seek to fragment it into known or familiar components.

The key idea in Methodological Holism is that the whole differs from the sum of the parts not only in quantity but in quality. Methodological Holism says that the individual element is inextricably tied to other individuals. Methodological Holism regards individuals or elements as reciprocally influencing each other.

Methodological Holism - Malcolm Williams
Methodological Holism The opposite of methodological individualism, this doctrine holds that social wholes are more than the sum of individual attitudes, beliefs, and actions and that the whole can often determine the characteristics of individuals. Holism has been prominent in philosophy and social science since Hegel, and, arguably, it has its roots in the writings of Plato. Methodological holism takes a number of forms across social science disciplines.

Jacek Szmatka, International Sociology, Vol. 4, No. 2, 169-186 (1989)
Two versions of methodological individualism and three versions of methodological holism are critically analysed and, as a result, methodological reductionism is postulated. In methodological respects, methodological reductionism distinguishes explanations of the first degree, i.e., `one-level' explanations from explanations of the second degree, ultimate explanations, i.e., the ones in which the explanations refer to laws and statements related to phenomena from a different level from those to which the explanandum refers.

BRANKO MITROVIC, UNITEC, Auckland, New Zealand
ABSTRACT: The debate between individualism and holism in the philosophy of history pertains to the nature of the entities relied on in historical explanations. In this paper I analyze two methodological problems that holist explanations face in the writing of intellectual history.