Why do we need to use both macrosociology and microsociology in any complete study of society?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is important to use both microsociology and macrosociology when studying society because we need to understand both the broader trends of society, and the ways in which individuals interact with one another.  If we only use one or the other, we do not get a full picture of what a society is like.

Macrosociology is the part of sociology that looks at large segments of a population.  For example, macrosociology might look at statistics to see whether growing up in poverty is likely to lead kids to have a lower level of education.  This type of inquiry looks at all poor children, which is a relatively large segment of the population as a whole. 

Microsociology looks at small segments of a population.  To continue with our example from the last paragraph, microsociologists might study a few families who lived in poverty.  They would look carefully at those families to see how they interacted with their school-age children and to see what those kids’ lives were like.  They would try to understand how the families’ poverty affected the kids’ ability to get an education.  By looking at only a few families, they would be looking at a very small segment of the population.

Both of these approaches are necessary because without them we cannot truly understand sociological phenomena.  For example, imagine that we studied the link between poverty and education only by looking at a few families.  We would understand those families well, but we would not know if their kids’ educational experiences were typical of poor kids as a group.  In order to know about the experience of the majority of poor kids, we need to do research that looks at a very large number of them.  That way, we can draw conclusions about them as a group.

Now imagine that we only used macrosociology.   If we only look at poverty statistics and test scores, we might know that poor kids get lower scores, but we will not know why that happens.  By looking closely at a few families, we can get a better understanding of how poverty is connected to poor educational levels.  Do the parents not spend time reading to the kids?  Do they not help the kids with their homework?  Are the teachers in the kids’ schools uninterested or not well-prepared?  These are things that we cannot determine by only using macrosociology.  We have to do lower-level, microsociological research to understand these things.

Thus, it is important to use both microsociology and macrosociology because we have to understand the broad trends in society and the small-scale behaviors and attitudes that create those trends. 

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