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Macro and Micro Approaches

Sociologists’ views basically fall into two camps: macrosociology and microsociology.

Macro sociologists focus on social structure, social institutions, and social, political, and economic change. They look at the large-scale social forces that change the course of human society and the lives of individuals.

Micro sociologists study social interaction; how families, coworkers, and other small groups of people interact; why they interact the way they do; and how they interpret the meanings of their own interactions and of the social settings in which they find themselves.

Within the broad macro camp, two perspectives dominate: functionalism and conflict theory. Within the micro camp, two other perspectives exist: symbolic interactionism and utilitarianism (also called rational choice theory or exchange theory).

Theoretical perspectiveMajor assumptions
FunctionalismSocial stability is necessary to have a strong society, and adequate socialization and social integration are necessary to achieve social stability. Society’s social institutions perform important functions to help ensure social stability. Slow social change is desirable, but rapid social change threatens social order. Functionalism is a macro theory.
Conflict theorySociety is characterized by pervasive inequality based on social class, gender, and other factors. Far-reaching social change is needed to reduce or eliminate social inequality and to create an egalitarian society. Conflict theory is a macro theory.
Symbolic interactionismPeople construct their roles as they interact; they do not merely learn the roles that society has set out for them. As this interaction occurs, individuals negotiate their definitions of the situations in which they find themselves and socially construct the reality of these situations. In so doing, they rely heavily on symbols such as words and gestures to reach a shared understanding of their interaction. Symbolic interactionism is a micro theory.
Utilitarianism (rational choice theory or exchange theory)People act to maximize their advantages in a given situation and to reduce their disadvantages. If they decide that benefits outweigh disadvantages, they will initiate the interaction or continue it if it is already under way. If they instead decide that disadvantages outweigh benefits, they will decline to begin interacting or stop the interaction if already begun. Social order is possible because people realize it will be in their best interests to cooperate and to make compromises when necessary. Utilitarianism is a micro theory

Key Takeaways

  • Sociological theories may be broadly divided into macro approaches and micro approaches.
  • Functionalism emphasizes the importance of social institutions for social stability and implies that far-reaching social change will be socially harmful.
  • Conflict theory emphasizes social inequality and suggests that far-reaching social change is needed to achieve a just society.
  • Symbolic interactionism emphasizes the social meanings and understandings that individuals derive from their social interaction.
  • Utilitarianism emphasizes that people act in their self-interest by calculating whether potential behaviors will be more advantageous than disadvantageous.

Why sociology is not a science?

Sociology is not a science because it does not have universal consistency. People and society are too unpredictable to study, document, and infer based on past data. A person or group of individual could act one way for one reason, and another can act the same way for another reason. Society does not produce the same results in measures of the same variable; it seems that, like human relationships or even human thought, society is always in a state of change, never resonating the same way on any given day; society is not an objective reality but a subjective phenomena

Why is sociology dangerous?

Sociology can be dangerous because it pretends to be a science and often goes places with only convictions. Sadly some statements made with authority are just thoughts not backed up by empirical data.