This book extends debates in the field of biographical research, arguing that causal explanations are not at odds with biographical research and that biographical research is in fact a valuable tool for explaining why things in social and personal lives are one way and not another. Bringing reconstructive biographical research into dialogue with critical realism, it explains how and why relational social ontology can become a unique theoretical ground for tapping emergent mechanisms and latent meaning structures. Through an account of the reasons for which reductionist epistemologies, rational action models and covering law explanations are not appropriate for biographical research, the authors develop the philosophical idea of singular causation as a means by which biographical researchers are able to forge causal hypotheses for the occurrence of events and offer guidance on the application of this methodological principle to concrete, empirical examples. As such, this volume will appeal to scholars across the social sciences with interests in biographical research and social research methods.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Singular causation and biographical research
2. Philosophical arguments on social causality: Cases of reductionism
3. Critical realism: Causal mechanisms as emergent powers
4. Causal explanation as process tracing
5. Relating cases with phenomena: Arguments for generalizing through mechanisms
6. The relational subject and latent meaning structures
7. Why the temporal is causal
8. Case reconstruction and relational mechanisms in biographical research practice
9. Epilogue: Summarizing the argumentation
Giorgos Tsiolis is Associate Professor of Qualitative Methods in Sociological Research and currently Head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Crete, Greece.
Michalis Christodoulou teaches in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Patras, Greece. He is the co-editor of Emotions, Temporalities and Working-Class Identities in the 21st Century.