I am a philosopher of social science with a strong interest in China and Southeast Asia. Paying attention to the logical and conceptual issues raised by the social sciences is key to better understanding the modern world. I think philosophers need to interact seriously and extensively with working social scientists and historians if they are going to be able to make a useful contribution.




  • Complementarity of Thick and Thin Theories of the Actor

    Complementarity Thick Thin Theories Actor

    There is a range of approaches to the social sciences that fall under the umbrella of "actor-centered" theories (link). The chief fissure among these theories i... Read more

    Posted on 28 June 2016 SOCIETY
  • Systems Management and the War on Poverty

    Systems Management Poverty

    One of the important developments in engineering and management thinking since World War II is the value of approaching large problems as systems rather than... Read more

    Posted on 27 June 2016 SOCIETY
  • Errors in Organizations

    Errors Organizations

    Organizations do things -- process tax returns, deploy armies, send spacecraft to Mars. And in order to do these various things, organizations have people with... Read more

    Posted on 23 June 2016 SOCIETY
  • Capitalism 2.0?

    Capitalism 2.0?

    Capitalism is one particular configuration of the economic institutions that define production and consumption in a society. It involves private ownership of... Read more

    Posted on 17 June 2016 SOCIETY
  • Making Change Happen

    Making Change Happen

    There are many large social ills that we would collectively like to change. We would like to see an end to debilitating poverty; we would like to end the... Read more

    Posted on 10 June 2016 SOCIETY
  • LBJ's Commitment to Cities

    LBJ's Commitment Cities

    In the United States we have been in the desert for decades when it comes to big, transformative policy reforms aimed at addressing our most serious social... Read more

    Posted on 09 June 2016 SOCIETY
  • Bourdieu on Post-modern Biography

    Bourdieu Post-modern Biography

    Here is a very interesting short piece by Pierre Bourdieu on the topic of biography, "L'Illusion biographique," that is very relevant to the prior post. (Thanks... Read more

    Posted on 30 May 2016 SOCIETY
  • Three Conceptions of Biography

    Three Conceptions Biography

    A biography is a narrative of a person's life. The biographer wants to tell the story of how the subject made it from childhood to adulthood; how he or she... Read more

    Posted on 23 May 2016 SOCIETY
  • Global Inequality

    Global Inequality

    image: scenes from Mumbai, April 2016Inequalities of wealth and income throughout the world have generated a great deal of attention in the past several years,... Read more

    Posted on 19 May 2016 SOCIETY
  • The Kerner Commission Report

    Kerner Commission Report

    The Kerner Commission released its report in 1968, following months of intensive study of the series of major race riots and rebellions that had occurred in... Read more

    Posted on 13 May 2016 SOCIETY
  • Hofstadter on the Progressive Historians

    Hofstadter Progressive Historians

    I've frequently found Richard Hofstadter to be a particularly compelling historian of American politics and ideas. He is one of the writers from the 1950s and... Read more

    Posted on 08 May 2016 SOCIETY
  • Hofstadter on the American Right

    Hofstadter American Right

    Richard Hofstadter opened his 1963 Herbert Spencer Lecture at Oxford with these prescient words:Although American political life has rarely been touched by the... Read more

    Posted on 05 May 2016 SOCIETY
  • Predicting, Forecasting, and Superforecasting

    Predicting, Forecasting, Superforecasting

    I have expressed a lot of reservation about the feasibility of prediction of large, important outcomes in the social world (link, link, link). Read more

    Posted on 01 May 2016 SOCIETY
  • Samuel Dill on the Late Roman Empire

    Samuel Dill Late Roman Empire

    An anonymous reader responds to my short discussion of Patrick Geary's treatment of the late Roman Empire to recommend Samuel Dill's treatment of this process... Read more

    Posted on 28 April 2016 SOCIETY
  • Large Structures and Social Change

    Large Structures Social Change

    The relationship between feudalism and the origins of capitalism was of great interest to Marx. Here is one way that Marx puts the idea in The Poverty of... Read more

    Posted on 23 April 2016 SOCIETY
  • Origins of Feudalism in the West

    Origins Feudalism West

    In the grand historical march postulated by historical materialism, ancient slavery and medieval feudalism preceded capitalism as distinct systems of... Read more

    Posted on 18 April 2016 SOCIETY
  • Defining Social Phenomena

    Defining Social Phenomena

    How does a field of phenomena come into focus as a subject of scientific study? When we want to know about weather, we can identify a relatively small number... Read more

    Posted on 16 April 2016 SOCIETY
  • Phase Transitions and Emergence

    Phase Transitions Emergence

    Image: Phase diagram of water, Solé. Phase Transitions, 4I've proposed to understand the concepts of emergence and generativeness as being symmetrical (link). Read more

    Posted on 11 April 2016 SOCIETY
  • Social Progress in India?

    Social Progress India?

    A few days in Bangalore, Kerala, and Mumbai have been very interesting, from a social-change point of view. There is an election cycle underway, with prospects... Read more

    Posted on 07 April 2016 SOCIETY
  • ABM Fundamentalism


    image: Chernobyl control roomQuite a few recent posts have examined the power and flexibility of ABM models as platforms for simulating a wide range of social... Read more

    Posted on 17 March 2016 SOCIETY