Microfoundations of the World Polity

Saturday, June 25, 2016: 2:30 PM-4:00 PM
202 South Hall (South Hall)
Alexander Kentikelenis, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom; University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Leonard Seabrooke, Frederiksberg, Denmark; Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark
Examining social phenomena requires choices about what approach can yield an adequate causal explanation, and what data is appropriate in doing so. These choices belong to individual scholars and to different fields of sociological explanation. We suggest that this decision-making should be informed by thresholds of relevance, through the identification of information redundancies that direct knowledge development. Our approach is demonstrated by an application of seemingly contrasting approaches, Microfoundations and World Polity, to a common dilemma in Global and Transnational Sociology, how to study norms emanating from International Governmental Organizations. Our study draws on micro-, meso-, and macro-level data on the International Monetary Fund, examining two important issues for world development: capital account management and tax reform. We investigate the changing treatment of these issues at the individual, group, and systemic levels, suggesting that the Microfoundations and World Polity approaches offer different insights. They also suggest different thresholds of relevance that inform what approach hold most explanatory power. Here the pivot point is the role of agency in the theorization of norms. We argue that examining thresholds of relevance returns us to classic questions in sociology about how best to study social phenomena, as well as contemporary debates on the micro-level motors of macro-level changes.