Huff on Methodological Individualism

There seems to me to be a lot of defense of this doctrine for two reasons:

1) It can be used as a trump card by libertarians who wish to shut down a debate.
2) The early Austrians all defended it, so there is sentimental attachment to it. (I've said before that this was understandable: given the only alternative was methodological holism, I'd sure opt for methodological individualism as well!)

Huff takes on the subject here; his points are sound, I think.

And again, just to be clear where I stand: the right approach is methodological pluralism. Analyze at whatever level of analysis enables you to make progress, whether it be the gene, the neuron, the individual, the firm, the social class, the nation, the culture, the civilization, etc.


  1. I'm confused - why was the only other option methodological holism?

    Why is methodological pluralism accessible to you now but not to Austrians 100 years ago?

    1. That was the intellectual climate of the time. They were fighting the social science of "vast historical forces," "class analysis," and Durkheim. Holism of some sort was the main other option.

      Of course, one could have opted for pluralism: the way wasn't blocked. Just like someone could have discovered the theory of relativity in 1800.

    2. Right, but presumably methodological pluralism wasn't quite the scientific reach that relativity would have been!

    3. It didn't seem to be in the air though, did it? I think the intellectual climate was that all science should follow one model, or at most two models: one for natural and one for social science.

  2. You know Gene, you are awfully quick to come up with psychological (and unflattering) explanations for why people disagree with you.

    Were you not breastfed as an infant? That's my theory to explain this annoying habit you have.

    1. Bob:

      1) 12 years is not that quick!
      2) #2 is not really even unflattering! Loyalty to one's intellectual forebears is admirable, even if it can be taken too far.


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