sample journal/notes writeup
Three things in this excerpt strike me as unhelpfully unclear. (1) Definition of "mechanism" leans too heavily on the word "mechanism" (14) (2) "Realism" and "more intellectually satisfying" as reasons to put actors and actions at the center of mechanistic explanations are not well explained (14.9-15.2 using the "Page Point Nine system"). (3) Reduction of error risk could be more robustly presented.
What is a mechanism? A mechanism is a process — a series of actions, steps, events. In an explanation, these involve objects or entities that are a part of the explanation, things we'll call endogenous.
What does Hedstrom mean by REALISM (14.9)? The context here is why actors and their actions are the components of the mechanisms in mechanistic explanations. The "realist principle" here resonates with Durkheim's suggestion that "social facts be explained by social facts" — as opposed to, say, supernatural forces, fate, etc. So, realism says "keep the stuff of explanations in the same realm as the things you are trying to explain."
Finally, the clearest of the three items supporting actors and actions as what the mechanisms involve is "reduce the risk of erroneous causal inferences" (15.2) but even this needs some clarification. What we mean here is that careful specification of mechanisms in terms of social actors and social actions will keep us in the realm of the observable. We will be less likely to accept explanations that amount to "and then some other stuff happens and voila, the outcome ensues."