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Social Mechanisms in Empirical Sociology : Introduction to Special Issue

  • Christofer Edling
  • Jens Rydgren
Publishing year: 2016
Language: English
Pages: 1135-1145
Publication/Series: American Behavioral Scientist
Volume: 60
Issue: 10
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: SAGE Publications

Abstract english

The social mechanism program has been successful in sociology and neighboring social science disciplines, such as criminology and political science. However, in our view the literature on social mechanisms is still too preoccupied with intratheoretical and metatheoretical discussions, and we find very few empirical applications. This is surprising since one of the basic aims of the social mechanisms approach from the start has been to achieve better integration between theory and empirical analyses. Yet of all the previous edited volumes and special issues dedicated to social mechanisms (or to analytical sociology, for that matter), we find only a small number of chapters that are empirically oriented in the sense that they address and try to answer a substantive empirical research question. This is unfortunate: By leaving out the dirty work of empirical analysis, social mechanisms theorists risk surrendering the potential influence of the approach. As a result, new (statistical) methods rather than new approaches to theorizing drive the practice of social science research. Most social scientists are driven by substantial empirical interests, that is, they share a set of questions they want to find answers to, rather than being motivated by abstract methodological and/or theoretical interests. Proponents of the social mechanism approach need to show by example that this approach is a valuable framework for researching broad, mainstream social science issues. This is what we do in this special issue.


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
  • Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
  • Social mechanisms


  • ISSN: 0002-7642
Christofer Edling
E-mail: christofer [dot] edling [at] soc [dot] lu [dot] se


Faculty of Social Sciences

+46 46 222 88 62



Centre for Economic Demography




+46 46 222 88 62




I earned my PhD from Stockholm University in 1999. Between 2002 and 2005 I was Torgny Segerstedt Pro Futura Fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study at Uppsala University. I received my Docent-title in 2003, and was appointed Associate Professor at Stockholm University in 2004. From 2006 to 2008 I was Head of the Department of Sociology at Stockholm university. Before coming to Lund in 2012 I served as Full Professor of Sociology at Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany. I have been a fellow at Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (2004/05) and Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (2013).

Department of Sociology
Lund University
Visiting address: Sandgatan 11, House G, Lund
Postal address: Box 114 , SE-221 00 LUND, SWEDEN
Telephone: Student Office +46 46-222 88 44, Lund University Switchboard +46 46-222 00 00

Faculty of Social Sciences