Boudon's Theory of Cognitive Action - Between or Above Rational Choice Theory and Analytical Sociology?

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 27 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Suzana IGNJATOVIC, Institute of Social Sciences, Serbia
Boudon is commonly recognized as either an analytical sociologist and/or a rational choice theory (RCT) sociologist. It is debatable whether he would subscribe unequivocally to either of the two camps. On the contrary, Boudon was critical both to rational choice sociology and analytical sociology. There is a difference in his understanding of RCT and analytical sociology. Boudon had much respect for RCT, recognizing its heuristic capacity in some domains. Boudon’s basic concept of cognitive rationality was developed in strong opposition to RCT, but his idea was to make a more general model, that would incorporate RCT basics in his own theory. Although Boudon’s view of RCT was somewhat reductionist, he shared the basic epistemological premises of rationality and methodological individualism with this approach. 

It could be argued whether Boudon can be considered an analytical sociologist at all, since his model was developed almost without referring to analytical sociology. The usual common reason why Boudon should be placed in analytical camp is the concept of mechanism. This concept was more implicitly present in Boudon’s work, and certainly more elaborated in Boudon’s early work, than in his late “epistemological” phase. He was not so much interested in analytical sociology, although he was included as the author in publications on analytical sociology. Only in his late work, Boudon showed some interest in analytical sociology, openly criticizing its fundamentals as not very original. However, there are some links between Boudon and analytical sociology, especially the belief in “explanatory sociology” and value-neutral science, and presentation of the ideas in the form of an “epistemological manifest”.