State theory and the rise of the regulatory state

Authored by: Darryl S.L. Jarvis

Routledge Handbook of Public Policy

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415782456
eBook ISBN: 9780203097571
Adobe ISBN: 9781136223259


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Theories in the social sciences fall into different types or orders depending upon the type and range of social phenomena they attempt to explain and the basic method they use to derive their insights and hypotheses. That is, social scientific theories differ according to their ‘level of analysis,’ ‘method of analysis’ and ‘unit of analysis’ (Almond and Genco 1977: 489–522). With respect to their level of analysis, some social scientific theories are ‘general’ or macro-level social theories that attempt to explain all phenomena within their purview. Others are less wide-ranging and focus only on a few very specific subsets of social life, either at a micro- or meso-level of analysis (Ray 2001: 355–88). Similarly, social theories also differ according to their method of analysis: some are ‘deductive’ theories developed largely on the basis of the application of general presuppositions, concepts or principles to specific phenomena. Others are less deductive and more ‘inductive’, developing generalizations only on the basis of careful observation of empirical phenomena and subsequent testing of these generalizations against other cases (Lundquist 1987; Przeworski 1987: 31–49; Hawkesworth 1992: 291–392). And, with respect to their units of analysis, some social theories focus attention on individuals as the basic social actor whose behaviour and actions must be explained, while some view aggregate collections of individuals, or groups, as the relevant analytical unit. Still, others consider larger social structures to have an independent impact on individual and collective actions (Hay and Wincott 1998: 951–7; Clark 1998: 245–70; Tilly 1984).

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