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This entry is part of a series in which we discuss concepts and phenomena in the field of transnational studies.
The major critique of cosmopolitan sociology on empirical research in social sciences is its methodological nationalism. Methodological nationalism means that most studies define (explicitly or implicitly) the nation state as the container of social processes. Thus the nation state unit is the key-order for studying major social, economic and political processes. One of the major critics of such a perspective, Ulrich Beck, argues that it is wrongly based on assumptions of the congruence of political, cultural and social borders. The nation state perspective doesn’t capture transnational linkages, structures or identities.
But how can one analyze transnational phenomena empirically? It is a fundamental problem of research on transnationalism that most data sets and strategies of social inquiry are nation state bound. That makes inferences on transnational phenomena difficult or impossible. This methodological problem is therefore fundamentally linked with sociological concept formation, which is – from a cosmopolitan perspective - nation state bound and thus unable capture the multi-dimensional process of change. Or as Beck and Sznaider formulate it:
The decisive point is that national organization as a structuring principle of societal and political action can no longer serve as the orienting reference point for the social scientific observer (Beck and Sznaider 2006).