Explain the differences between Macro and Micro sociology. Identify some of the key sociological approaches in both areas. Which do you think is more useful for studying society and why?
Giddens (1989) defines sociology in the following way: “Sociology is the study of human social life, groups and societies. It is a dazzling and compelling enterprise, having as its subject matter our own behaviour as social beings. The scope of sociology is extremely wide, ranging from the analysis of passing encounters between individuals in the street up to the investigation of world-wide social processes”. Sociology is a significant subject so it is almost impossible to know all its aspect, it is only possible to learn how to apply “sociological imagination” , that is why all the sociological theories may be broadly divided into macro and micro approaches, which will be deeper discussed and considered from each angle in this essay.
Macro sociology studies social structures, communities, big social groups, layers, systems and processes that occur in them. The social community such as civilization is the main objective of macro sociology. It is not focused on detailed analysis of certain problems and situations; its target is a complex understanding of the issue. Macro sociological approach to phenomena is associated with the social world systems and its interaction with different types of culture, social institutions (complex social forms), social structures and global processes. Mainly macro sociology concentrates on the models of behavior that help to understand society as a whole. The main concepts of macro sociology are: society, culture, social institutions, social system, structure and also global social processes. Macro sociologists argue that society is in a more priority than individual as his behavior is formed by society he was born and brought up in. Macro sociology includes several important sociological perspectives such as: functionalism that focuses on relationship between the parts of society and how aspects of society are functional and Conflict Theory which main focus is competition for scarce resources and how the elite control the poor and weak.
Micro sociology is one of the main branches of sociology, examining the nature of everyday human social interactions and agency on a small scale. Micro sociology is based on interpretative analysis rather than statistical or empirical observation. It includes a theory of Symbolic interactionism that focuses on the use of symbols and face-to-face interactions. Micro sociology appeared in the late 30s of this century and had another name – sociometry. This term is associated with Jacob L. Moreno, who was a Jewish Romanian-born Austrian-American leading psychiatrist, sociologist, thinker and educator. During his lifetime, he was recognized as one of the leading social scientists. Sociometry has got very original research methods, which are widely used as a general scientific tool in various social studies. For Moreno three the most important concepts of the sociometry were: “socius” – companion, “metrum” – measurement and “drama” – action. Moreno (1948) defines sociometry as “the inquiry into the evolution and organization of groups and the position of individuals within them.” For Moreno and other representatives of sociometry the main object of research is an existing small social groups and the most important, what characterizes these social groups is the people’s emotional relationship with each other that is forming an atomistic structure of society. Simple observations are not able to capture these relationships, but they can be identified by using specific measurement methods, particularly survey techniques and processing of data. For example: sociometric tests, sociomatrices and sociograms. This technique allows detecting the actual situations of conflict and efforts to eliminate them. The creation of sociometry has importantly contributed to the sociology and is considered to be one of the most significant achievements of sociology as a science for the entire period of its existence. The introduction of quantitative methods in sociology considerably transformed it and allowed to study with unprecedented accuracy. One of the most significant consequences of creation of the micro sociology has become the increase of interest and opportunities for social research in the study of various problems of human existence with the use of quantative methods and modern computer technologies.
Functionalists mainly focus on the “macrostructures” of society, but representatives of symbolic interactionism are usually more concerned about “micro aspects’ of social life. Also they argue that micro sociology is more useful for studying society. For instance John H.Mead and H. Blumer studied the social interaction of individuals and speculated how they manage to coordinate their actions with each other.
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The Representatives of symbolic interactionism emphasize the fact that people are social beings. However, in comparison with ants, bees, termites and other insects, that are leading a social life, people almost do not have any inherent models of behavior that connect us with each other. Consequently, if people have essentially no inherent nature of the mechanisms of social behaviuor it is not clear how society can be created. Representatives of symbolic interactionism find the answer in the ability of people to communicate through the symbols. Geogre Herbert Meed (1863-1931) and other representatives of symbolic interactionism state that we perform an act by conforming to the meaning we put in it. Generally Blumer states that the meaning is not something initially related to the things, on the contrary, it is characteristic which emerges from the interaction between people in their everyday life. In other words, social reality is created by people when they act in this world and interpret events occurring in it.
Nietzsche’s 1880’s notebooks repeatedly state that “there are no facts, only interpretations.” We choose the facts from the universal context by the activity of our brain , and because of that all the “facts” are the creations of a man. Accordingly, representatives of symbolic interactionism believe that we perceive the world as constructed reality.
All this leads representatives of symbolic interactionism to the conclusion that if sociologists want to study the life of society, they must first understand the words and actions of members of this society, taking their point of view. This theory was largely influenced by Weberian concept of understanding (Verstehen) or ’empathetic understanding. This gives an opportunity to the sociologists to “mentally put themselves into “the other person’s shoes” and thus obtain an “interpretive understanding” of the meanings of individuals’ behaviours.”
To conclude, the advantage of this approach is that it introduces the “people” in the panorama of sociological research. It pays attention to the activities of individuals in their daily lives and sees that the people are not robots that mechanically carry out the orders of social rules and institutional norms but beings that are living their lives and have got and ability to think. Through interaction, they operate on symbols and meanings â€‹â€‹that enable them to interpret the situation, assess the advantages and disadvantages of certain actions and then choose one of them. Thus, representatives of symbolic interactionism suggest the image of a man as an individual, actively shaping his behavior, rather than passively reacting to external dictates of structural limitations.