Coleman’s social theory – too parsimonious ?
James S. Coleman affirmed that his theory follows the principle of parsimony : it uses a minimum number of basic concept to account for social phenomena. He justifies parsimony itself as a means of unifying sociological theory on individualistic grounds, and set outs to use the model of an actor rationally pursuing self-interest to derive all consequences. This is clearly a very narrow starting ground, perhaps too narrow. In fact, it is not clear that he manages to draw all consequences from his nearly contractual model of society, as this model could have led to recognizing the existence of collective entities. Moreover, he ends up introducing an additional principle which exceeds the limits of rational choice theory — namely, actor’s ability to identify with others — and is then led to analyze the concept of the identity of the « self », thus considerably extending the limits of classical methodological individualism.