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Analytical Sociology: Bringing Culture and Identity Back In

  • Christofer Edling
  • Jens Rydgren
Publishing year: 2014
Language: English
Publication/Series: Sociologica
Issue: 2
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Società Editrice il Mulino

Abstract english

This paper is a critique of analytical sociology as presented in Peter Hedström’s book Dissecting the Social. Our critique has two main targets. First, we believe that too little attention is being paid to the macro-to-micro link, and we argue for the importance of macro-level entities such as culture, social categories, and groups – all of which have so far been largely omitted from analytical sociology. Second, we critique the persistent focus on intentionality as the driving force of social action. We argue that the strong focus on intentionality unnecessarily restricts the scope conditions of analytical sociology, and that it also introduces theoretical inconsistencies, by bringing in unrealistic assumptions and as-if theorizing. Hedström has strived to distance

the program of analytical sociology from rational choice theory by relaxing the assumption of rationality. However, we argue that analytical sociology is still too closely connected with rational choice theory, and that the assumption of intentionality – that people make reasoned choices – needs to be relaxed. We discuss the ways in which a further focus on social identity would complement analytical sociology by making it fundamentally more realistic and less restricted.


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
  • Analytical Sociology
  • Culture
  • Identity
  • Macro-Micro Link
  • Social Mechanisms


  • ISSN: 1971-8853
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