Social Sciences

Start Free Trial

What are theoretical perspectives in sociology? Which are macro-level theories and which are micro-level theories?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

All academic disciplines have theoretical perspectives unique to that discipline. Some of them are foundational approaches that date to the establishment of the discipline, while others are connected to more recent changes. The roots of sociology lie in the industrial developments of the mid-late nineteenth century, and the related theories...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

All academic disciplines have theoretical perspectives unique to that discipline. Some of them are foundational approaches that date to the establishment of the discipline, while others are connected to more recent changes. The roots of sociology lie in the industrial developments of the mid-late nineteenth century, and the related theories have adapted to social transformations since those times. "Macro" applies to large-scale aspects of society, and "micro" refers to small-scale aspects, including the individual.

A theory is a general approach that includes laws or principles that can be widely, even universally, applied. In sociology, theories apply to wide-scale social issues or problems, or to categories such as class, and are used to generate propositions or hypotheses that can be investigated, substantiated, or repudiated.

The earlier structural-functional approach to analyzing society, associated with Emile Durkheim and with Talcott Parsons's subsequent positivist revisions, has been supplemented or challenged by later twentieth-century developments, including critical theory and symbolic interactionism. A given theory, rather than being rigidly associated with either the macro or micro dimension, can be applied in exploring research questions at various levels.

The macro versus micro distinction comes to life in formulating sociological research questions and projects. Some sociologists are primarily concerned with the broadest levels of generalizations, often applicable to entire nations or regions, and likewise support their findings with quantitative data in large-scale data sets. Positivist theories may be more often associated with such approaches. Others, however, address the intimate and personal dimensions of communities and families, and of cross-cutting categories such as gender. Qualitative research, including methods such as interviewing, is likely to be associated with microsociological interests and goals. Associated theoretical frameworks, such as feminism, could be more closely linked to specific qualitatively oriented projects, such as feminism for gender-related studies.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team