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The origins of constellations: Analysing conjectural outcomes in the social sciences

Conference paper
Authors Ryan Rumble
Published in Business Model Conference
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE)
Department of Economy and Society
Language en
Keywords Set theory; QCA; Conjunctural outcomes; Complex causality
Subject categories Other Social Sciences, Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology), Economics and Business, Business Administration, Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


Set-theoretic methods (STMs), have enabled social scientists to systematically analyse society/ies in ways that could not be achieved using contemporary statistical methods (Fiss, 2007). By assuming complex causality, STMs are able to: (a) identify multiple paths to the same outcome; (b) identify configurations of contingencies and nullifying forces; and (c) distinguish between ‘sufficient’ and ‘necessary’ causal conditions (Schneider & Wagemann, 2012). Therefore, these methods are well suited to the analysis of social reality (Ragin, 1987). Complex causality also implies conjunctural outcomes, as well as causes. Yet, the current literature on STMs restricts their application to the identification of individual, isolated outcomes. The reason for this appear to be methodological rather than philosophical, and a few methodologists have made efforts to incorporate multifinality (cf. Baumgartner, 2009). However, to date, these innovations are limited to the analysis of multiple individual outcomes, rather than conjunctural ones. This paper therefore asks: 1. Should social scientists concern themselves with conjunctural outcomes, and, if so; 2. How might we analyse and identify conjunctural outcomes. This paper presents both an ontological and a pragmatic argument for the study of conjunctural outcomes. In the case of the former, open systems are inherently susceptible to side-effects and externalities. For the latter, the paper highlights the importance for politicians and managers alike to simultaneously achieve conflicting and/or paradoxical outcomes; e.g., economic growth and carbon reduction (Mason, 2015), or the Triple Bottom Line (Jeurissen, 2000); and for the analysis of outcomes that are inherently complex and combinatory, such as business models (Rumble & Mangematin, 2015). For simplicity’s sake, this paper will focus on business studies and an illustrative setting in which to apply the arguments set forth in this paper. To answer the second question, the paper clarifies how the causal logic of existing STMs can be reinterpreted to identify conjunctural outcomes. The paper ends with an illustration of how this can be done using QCA in an analytical process I term reverse-QCA (‘rQCA').

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