De verklaringskracht van cultuur [The explanatory power of culture]
Number of pages
SourceMens en Maatschappij, 77, 2, (2002), pp. 137-152
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ RSCR SOC
Mens en Maatschappij
SubjectInequality, cohesion and modernization; Ongelijkheid, cohesie en modernisering
'Culture' is a popular concept for the explanation of various kinds of behavior in various contributions in the social sciences. Anthropologists and sociologists who use the holistic approach are particularly prone to stress the importance of culture. I argue that popular holistic explanations have little explanatory power and occasionally are based on an elementary methodological error. I do this for three examples: differences in culture as an explanation for (a) the failure of communism, (b) the use of excessive violence in crime, and (c) the war between Ethnic groups in former Yugoslavia. Several alternative explanations are elaborated for a variety of topics that share: (a) the distinction between the micro- and macro-level, (b) methodological individualism, (c) and information about individuals acting in a specific context. The survey-method, often used in sociology, is a very fruitful approach for the latter.
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