Pub. date: 2011 | Online Pub. Date: April 07, 2011 | Print ISBN: 9781412927482 | Online ISBN: 9781412994088| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Martin A. Maldonado
Mechanisms , as used in the social sciences, are analytical constructs that tell in detail how the two components of an explanation are related— that is, how the explanans produces the explanandum. Social mechanisms are particularly suitable to address power-related phenomena due to their interdisciplinary nature, their ability to connect macro and micro phenomena, and their acknowledgment that purposive actors (not variables) have the starring roles in politics. Used across the natural and the social sciences in the form of simple models, mechanisms produce satisfactory partial explanations without the formal requirements of causal explanations and without the universal aspirations of the grand theory. Mechanisms, frequently presented as simplified analogies of how something works, have always been part of the scientific toolboxes of the natural and the social sciences. Mechanistic thought was commonly used by several pre-Socratic philosophers (Anaximander, Pythagoras) to describe the functioning of nature in general and of celestial ...