Chapter 1 Society as analytical object: some methodological challenges
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Theories do more than help us sharpen our intuitions and hunches about our subject of interest. They also influence just what we think is worth theorizing about. Since the late 19th century, it has been conventional to start with some idealized individual who optimizes over options and arrive at society through aggregating over the totality of those individuals. In contrast, this book starts with society as a really existing object, though not as a sentient creature, and arrives at individuals through processes of individuation and extraction. This chapter thus explores how it is that different conceptual orientations can shape the construction of social theories of political economy. This chapter unfolds as an extended reflection on a long-ago remark by George Shackle to the effect that "the prime feature of a good theory is that it eases a theorist's mind."