Macrosociology

Macrosociology

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Macrosociology is an approach to the discipline which emphasizes the analysis of social systems and population
Population
A population is all the organisms that both belong to the same group or species and live in the same geographical area. The area that is used to define a sexual population is such that inter-breeding is possible between any pair within the area and more probable than cross-breeding with individuals...

s on a large scale, at the level of social structure
Social structure
Social structure is a term used in the social sciences to refer to patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergent from and determinant of the actions of the individuals. The usage of the term "social structure" has changed over time and may reflect the various levels of analysis...

, and often at a necessarily high level of theoretical abstraction. Microsociology
Microsociology
Microsociology is one of the main branches of sociology, concerning the nature of everyday human social interactions and agency on a small scale. Microsociology is based on interpretative analysis rather than statistical or empirical observation, and shares close association with the philosophy of...

, by contrast, focuses on the individual social agency
Agency (sociology)
In the social sciences, agency refers to the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. By contrast, "Structure" refers to the factors of influence that determine or limit an agent and his or her decisions...

. Macrosociology also concerns individuals, families, and other constituent aspects of a society, but always does so in relation to larger social system of which they are a part. Macrosociology can also be the analysis of large collectivities (eg. the city
City
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

, the church
Christian Church
The Christian Church is the assembly or association of followers of Jesus Christ. The Greek term ἐκκλησία that in its appearances in the New Testament is usually translated as "church" basically means "assembly"...

). Human population
Population
A population is all the organisms that both belong to the same group or species and live in the same geographical area. The area that is used to define a sexual population is such that inter-breeding is possible between any pair within the area and more probable than cross-breeding with individuals...

s are considered a society to the degree that is politically autonomous and its members to engage in a broad range of cooperative activities. For example, this definition would apply to the population of Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 being deemed a society, but German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

-speaking people as a whole scattered about different countries would not be considered a society. Macrosociology deals with broad societal trends that can later be applied to the smaller features of a society. To differentiate, macrosociology deals with issues such as war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

, distress of Third World
Third World
The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either capitalism and NATO , or communism and the Soviet Union...

 nations, poverty
Poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

, and environmental deprivation, whereas microsociology analyses issues such as the role of women, the nature of the family
Family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...

, and immigration
Immigration
Immigration is the act of foreigners passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence...

.

Important representatives of macrosociological theorists



  • Auguste Comte
    Auguste Comte
    Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte , better known as Auguste Comte , was a French philosopher, a founder of the discipline of sociology and of the doctrine of positivism...

    ; who coined the term "sociology" and believed society could be studied like any other science.

  • Émile Durkheim
    Émile Durkheim
    David Émile Durkheim was a French sociologist. He formally established the academic discipline and, with Karl Marx and Max Weber, is commonly cited as the principal architect of modern social science and father of sociology.Much of Durkheim's work was concerned with how societies could maintain...

    ; who viewed individual issues as reflective of greater social patterns, completing the first sociological study (which linked suicide to societal trends)

  • Herbert Spencer
    Herbert Spencer
    Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era....

    ; who coined the term "survival of the fittest" in reference to human social arrangements (Social Darwinism
    Social Darwinism
    Social Darwinism is a term commonly used for theories of society that emerged in England and the United States in the 1870s, seeking to apply the principles of Darwinian evolution to sociology and politics...

    ).

  • Karl Marx
    Karl Marx
    Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

    ; who analyzed society from the perspective of class conflict between workers and owners

  • Talcott Parsons
    Talcott Parsons
    Talcott Parsons was an American sociologist who served on the faculty of Harvard University from 1927 to 1973....

    ; whose 'action theory
    Action theory (philosophy)
    Action theory is an area in philosophy concerned with theories about the processes causing willful human bodily movements of more or less complex kind. This area of thought has attracted the strong interest of philosophers ever since Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics...

    ' attempted to unify the influence of macro and micro factors, in relation to a higher epistemological context of systems theory
    Systems theory
    Systems theory is the transdisciplinary study of systems in general, with the goal of elucidating principles that can be applied to all types of systems at all nesting levels in all fields of research...

     and cybernetics
    Cybernetics
    Cybernetics is the interdisciplinary study of the structure of regulatory systems. Cybernetics is closely related to information theory, control theory and systems theory, at least in its first-order form...

    .

Theoretical strategies


There are a number of theoretical strategies within contemporary macrosociology, but four of them stand out as major ones.
  • The Idealist Strategy attempts to explain the basic features of social life by reference to the creativity capacity of the human mind. "Idealists believe that human uniqueness lies in the fact that humans attach symbolic meanings to their actions"

  • The Materialist Strategy attempts to explain the basic features of human social life in terms of the practical, material conditions of their existence. These conditions include things like the nature of the physical environment, the level of technology, and the organization of the economic system.

  • Functionalism, or structural functionalism
    Structural functionalism
    Structural functionalism is a broad perspective in sociology and anthropology which sets out to interpret society as a structure with interrelated parts. Functionalism addresses society as a whole in terms of the function of its constituent elements; namely norms, customs, traditions and institutions...

    , has many principals which define this theory. Functionalism essentially states that societies are complex systems of interrelated and interdependent parts, and each part of a society significantly influences the others. Also, each part of society exists because it has a specific function to perform in contributing to the society as a whole. Finally, it states that societies tend toward a state of equilibrium or homeostasis, and if there is a disturbance in any part of the society then the other parts will adjust to restore the stability of the society as a whole.

  • The Conflict Theory
    Conflict theory
    Conflict theories are perspectives in social science that emphasize the social, political or material inequality of a social group, that critique the broad socio-political system, or that otherwise detract from structural functionalism and ideological conservativism...

    , also called the Conflict Theoretical Strategy, rejects the idea that societies tend toward some basic consensus of harmony in which the features of society work for everyone's good. It is based on the idea that the basic structure of society is determined by individuals and groups acquiring scarce resources to satisfy their own needs and wants, thus creating endless conflicts.

Historical macrosociology


As globalization
Globalization
Globalization refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people and economic activity. Most often, it refers to economics: the global distribution of the production of goods and services, through reduction of barriers to international trade such as tariffs, export fees, and import...

 has impacted the world, it has also had an impact on historical macrosociology, leading to the development of two different branches. One is based mainly in comparative and historical sociology (CHS), and the other in political economy of the world-systems (PEWS). CHS bases its analysis on states, and searches for "generalizations about common properties and principles of variation among instances across time and space." PEWS, on the other hand, uses systems of states for analysis, and searches for "generalizations about interdependencies among a system's components and of principles of variation among systemic conditions across time and space." Despite the two schools' differences, both use historical knowledge to try and solve some of the problems seen in the field of macrosociology. As of recently, it has been argued that globalization poses a threat to the CHS way of thinking because it often leads to the dissolution of distinct states.

Historical Macrosociologists:

Charles Tilly
Charles Tilly
Charles Tilly was an American sociologist, political scientist, and historian who wrote on the relationship between politics and society. He was the Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science at Columbia University....

- CHS scholar- analysis based on national states

Immanuel Wallerstein
Immanuel Wallerstein
Immanuel Maurice Wallerstein is a US sociologist, historical social scientist, and world-systems analyst...

- developed world systems theory- analysis based on world capitalist system

The future of macrosociology: micro-macro links


Perhaps the most highly developed integrative effort to link microsociological and macrosociological phenomena is found in Anthony Giddens
Anthony Giddens
Anthony Giddens, Baron Giddens is a British sociologist who is known for his theory of structuration and his holistic view of modern societies. He is considered to be one of the most prominent modern contributors in the field of sociology, the author of at least 34 books, published in at least 29...

's theory of structuration, in which "social structure is defined as both constraining and enabling of human activity as well as both internal and external to the actor." Attempts to link micro and macro phenomena are evident in a growing body of empirical research. Such work appears to follow Giddens' view of the constraining and enabling nature of social structure for human activity and the need to link structure and action. "It appears safe to say that while macrosociology will always remain a central component of sociological theory and research, increasing effort will be devoted to creating workable models that link it with its microcounterpart."

See also

  • Sociology
    Sociology
    Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

  • Structure and agency
    Structure and agency
    The question over the primacy of either structure or agency in human behavior is a central debate in the social sciences. In this context, "agency" refers to the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. "Structure", by contrast, refers to the recurrent...

  • Social structure
    Social structure
    Social structure is a term used in the social sciences to refer to patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergent from and determinant of the actions of the individuals. The usage of the term "social structure" has changed over time and may reflect the various levels of analysis...

  • Sociocybernetics
    Sociocybernetics
    Sociocybernetics is an independent chapter of science in sociology based upon the General Systems Theory and cybernetics.It also has a basis in Organizational Development consultancy practice and in Theories of Communication, theories of psychotherapies and computer sciences...

  • Systems philosophy
    Systems Philosophy
    Systems philosophy is the study of the development of systems, with an emphasis on design and root cause analysis. Systems philosophy is a form of systems thinking....

  • General systems theory
  • Modernization theory
    Modernization theory
    Modernization theory is a theory used to explain the process of modernization within societies. The theory looks at the internal factors of a country while assuming that, with assistance, "traditional" countries can be brought to development in the same manner more developed countries have...

  • Action theory (sociology)
    Action theory (sociology)
    In sociology, action theory refers to the theory of social action presented by the American theorist Talcott Parsons.Parsons established action theory in order to integrate the study of social order with the structural and voluntaristic aspects of macro and micro factors...

  • Structural functionalism
    Structural functionalism
    Structural functionalism is a broad perspective in sociology and anthropology which sets out to interpret society as a structure with interrelated parts. Functionalism addresses society as a whole in terms of the function of its constituent elements; namely norms, customs, traditions and institutions...

  • Base and superstructure
    Base and superstructure
    In Marxist theory, human society consists of two parts: the base and superstructure; the base comprehends the forces and relations of production — employer-employee work conditions, the technical division of labour, and property relations — into which people enter to produce the necessities and...

  • Theory of structuration

Further reading

  • Charles Tilly
    Charles Tilly
    Charles Tilly was an American sociologist, political scientist, and historian who wrote on the relationship between politics and society. He was the Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science at Columbia University....

    , Macrosociology Past and Future in Newsletter of the Comparative & Historical Section, American Sociological Association, (1995) 8: 1, 3, 4, online