Causality and History: Modes of Causal Investigation in Historical Social Sciences

Ivan Ermakoff, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Studies at the confluence of history and social science address issues of causation in three ways: morphological, variable-centered, and genetic. These approaches to causal investigation differ with regard to their modus operandi, the types of patterns they look for, their underlying assumptions and the challenges they face. Morphological inquiries elaborate causal arguments by uncovering patterns in the empirical layout of socio-historical phenomena. To this end, these inquiries draw on descriptive techniques of data formalization. Variable-centered studies engage causal issues by investigating patterns of association among empirical categories under the twofold assumption that these categories a priori have explanatory relevance and each category empirically has the same meaning across cases. Genetic analyses ground their causal claims by identifying patterned processes of emergence or production.

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 Presented in Session 50. Method and Theory on Historical Change I