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Macrosociology is an approach to sociology which emphasizes the analysis of social systems and populations on a large scale, at the level of social structure, and often at a necessarily high level of theoretical abstraction.[1] Microsociology, by contrast, focuses on the individual social agency. 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 (e.g. the city, the church).[2] Human populations are considered a society to the degree that is politically autonomous and its members to engage in a broad range of cooperative activities.[clarification needed][3] For example, this definition would apply to the population of Germany being deemed a society, but German-speaking people as a whole scattered about different countries would not be considered a society.[3] 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, distress of Third World nations, poverty, and environmental deprivation, whereas microsociology analyses issues such as the role of women, the nature of the family, and immigration.[3]

Important representatives of macrosociological theorists[edit]

Theoretical strategies[edit]

There are a number of theoretical strategies within contemporary macrosociology, but four of them stand out as major ones.

Historical macrosociology[edit]

As globalization 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."[5] 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."[3] 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.[3]

Historical Macrosociologists:[3]

Charles Tilly- CHS scholar- analysis based on national states

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

The future of macrosociology: micro-macro links[edit]

Perhaps the most highly developed integrative effort to link microsociological and macrosociological phenomena is found in Anthony Giddens'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."[6] 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."[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Craig Calhoun(ed) Dictionary of the Social Sciences (Article: Macrosociology), Oxford University Press, 2002
  2. ^ John Scott & Gordon Marshall (eds) Dictionary of Sociology, Oxford University Press, 2000
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gerhard Lenski, Human societies: An introduction to Macrosociology, McGraw-Hill, 1982, ISBN 0-07-037176-8
  4. ^ Sanderson, Stephen K. Macrosociology: An Introduction to Human Societies, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1988
  5. ^ Arrighi, Giovanni. Globalization and historical macrosociology. (2000).Sociology for the twenty-first century. 117-133.
  6. ^ a b Borgatta, Edgar F. Encyclopedia of Sociology: Volume 3, Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1992

Further reading[edit]