Essays on Generative Mechanisms
By Mohamed Cherkaoui
October 2005, hardback, 196pp.
Invisible Codes is a path-breaking book about the concept of social or generative mechanisms, of which an early example is Adam Smith's idea of the 'invisible hand'. It deals with a problem long evident in sociological explanation, the 'macro-micro' dilemma. Professor Cherkaoui deploys a series of studies that deal with issues such as the causes of the French revolution of 1789, the persistence of social inequalities in education, and Max Weber's Protestant Ethic thesis. In each case he is concerned with understanding how both classical and contemporary sociologists construct explanatory schemas that aim to integrate the macrosociological and the microsociological levels. His aim is to construct a research strategy based around the principles of methodological individualism for understanding macro phenomena. Mohamed Cherkaoui argues that transitions between these levels are best seen through a modelling of generative mechanisms, conceptualised as a coherent group of hypotheses about actors and the contexts in which they act.
"Mohamed Cherkaoui shares many of the concerns of classical sociology, especially those of Tocqueville, who believed that his work might be compared to that of Cuvier, a major scientific figure of his time; of Weber, who said that he wrote without concern for style in order to stress the scientific character of his work; and of Durkheim, whose writings set the agenda for a scientific sociology. He is convinced that sociology will be able to formulate solid, scientific explanations of a wide variety of puzzling social phenomena as long as it is prepared to devote serious attention to the concept of generative mechanisms and the complexity of the micro?macro link. Cherkaoui illustrates his argument through a brilliant series of analytic examples drawn from contemporary and classical sociology." Raymond Boudon, of the Institut de France and Professor Emeritus at the Sorbonne