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Macro and micro sociology essays on race

Macro And Micro Sociology Essays On Race

Macro and micro sociology essays on race

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This covers a very broad range of topics that includes groups and collectivities of varying sizes, the major organizations and institutions of one or more societies, cross-sectional or historical studies of a single society, and both comparative and historical analyses of multiple societies. At the grandest level it may cover all human society and history. Sociologists distinguish macrosociology from microsociology, which focuses on the social activities of individuals and small groups.

The micro-macro distinction forms one of the central dualisms characterizing divergent sociological perspectives.

Seemingly polar opposites such as conflict-consensus, stability-change, structure-agency, subjectiveobjective, and materialist-idealist, as well as micro-macro, provide a shorthand method for denoting differences in central assumptions, subjects, and models.

As with many other oppositional concepts, however, the boundary between microsociology and macrosociology is not clearly distinguished, and at the margins there is much room for overlap.

Typically, micro-level studies examine individual thought, action, and interaction, often coinciding with social-psychological theories and models, whereas macro-level investigations target social structures and those forces that organize as well as divide individuals into political, social or religious organizations, ethnic populations, communities, and nation-states. Nevertheless, in defining these terms there is major conceptual ambiguity that can be formulated as a question: Should the distinction be based on substantive criteria specialty and subdisciplinary areas within sociology such as social change and development , theoretical criteria e.

Even here, however, there is ambiguity, since it is quite possible to make observations on smaller units e. Also, the issue of where to draw the line remains. Since the macro end of the continuum focuses on social structure, it is important to clarify the use of this term. In a review essay, Neil Smelser , pp. Institutions and identifiable collectivities are the outcomes of systematically related structures of activities.

Structure is dually defined as located in collective actors and in their interaction.

Micro/Macro Sociology

Thus social class is an example of social structure, as are the relationships between classes whose locus is the economy. The study of social class and the study of the economy are examples of macrosociology. Other examples emerge from the macrosociological focus on large-scale structural arrangements and activities of a great number of individuals in large-scale geographical space over long periods of time. Thus macroscopic questions in sociology conventionally revolve around the largest social, spatial, and temporal processes, such as the rise and decline of civilizations; the origins and development of modern nation-states, social movements, and revolutions; and the origins and consequences of social, political, economic, and cultural transformations.

Examples include the rise and spread of secular ideologies and religious belief systems, democratic transitions, and the nature and effects of large-scale institutions and organizations. Macro-level analysis is usually embedded in structural and conflict theories, and in studies of societal dynamics and epochal transformations of cultures and social structures. Topics are located within numerous subfields of sociology, including but not limited to stratification and inequality, resource mobilization, political and economic sociology, world systems, human evolution, and ecology.

They are equally likely to cross or link disciplinary boundaries to incorporate history, geography, political economy, and anthropology. Historical Background The concern with macro-level phenomena is as old as the discipline of sociology and arguably is the primary motivation for the creation of classical sociological theory and research.

The traditions they established retain their definitive role for the central issues of sociology in general and macrosociology in particular. The themes pursued by these and other classical theorists are found in subsequent theory and research. For example, the evolutionary perspectives on the development of human society advanced by early theorists have been modified, revised, and developed by contemporary evolutionary theorists such as Lenski Lenski et al.

In short, the macrosociological problems defined early in the history of sociology remain major focuses of current sociological research. Also located in these early works but often overlooked in subsequent interpretations is an issue that is the current central project of many social theorists: At least in the writings of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim, to a greater or lesser degree, efforts are made to connect individual and structural level activities in some coherent fashion.

For example, Marx is often considered the quintessential macrosociologist, providing the foundation for much current macrosociology. This concern with linkage has often been ignored or forgotten in the distinctive development of different schools of sociological thought. After years of separate development and sometimes acrimonious debate, efforts to conduct research and develop social theories that include both ends of the micro-macro continuum now constitute a major agenda for many sociologists.

Themes in Macrosociological Theory and Research Macrosociogical studies vary in both subject and theoretical orientation, but the two are closely related. For example, large-scale studies of single total societies or particular societal institutions often operate from a functionalist or systems perspective in which the effort is to understand how component parts fit together and serve larger social goals. On the other hand, studies of social change, either within a single society or across cultures, more often use one of the many variants of conflict—Marxist, neo-Marxist, and Weberian perspectives.

They do so because such theories are better equipped to explain conflict and change than the relatively static models promoted by functionalism, and because functionalism no longer dominates sociology.

These are broad generalizations, however, which invite counterexample. Given the sweeping scope of macrosociology, it is not possible to provide comprehensive coverage of all the topics and theories subsumed under this approach. The next section will illustrate key concerns of macrosociologists by describing exemplary theory and research in some major areas of macrosociology.

The numerous approaches to the study of societal change illustrate the diversity of sociological perspectives. At the most sweeping level, evolutionary theories take all human history and society as their subject, but there are numerous variants to this approach.

For example, evolutionary theory has gone hand in hand with functionalism, as in the later work of Talcott Parsons on human societies , which features the basic assumptions of evolutionary theory in terms of holism the whole unit rather than its parts , universalism natural and perpetual change , and unidirectionality progressive and cumulative change.

An idealist version of an evolutionary perspective can be found in Jurgen Habermas , who uses an evolutionary model to explain the development of normative structures and forms of rationality. Alternatively, it has also taken a materialist form, as developed by anthropologists Harris and a few sociologists Lenski, , Lenski et al.

Macro and micro sociology essays on race

Another version of societal evolutionary change that deviates somewhat from the mainstream of progressive evolution are the cyclical dynamics of societal and cultural change proposed in works of Pitirim Sorokin Evolutionary analysis also was once popular in the fields of human ecology Hawley , modernization Smelser , and structural and cultural assimilation of different racial groups in modern society Gordon Currently, there are relatively few sociologists who operate on this scale or who find it useful for analyzing more confined periods of historical change.

Nevertheless, contemporary theories of human evolution have been influential in providing comparative evidence for the material and normative bases of different forms of social organization and for describing the broadest patterns of societal change. These include the distribution of societal goods and services, enduring forms of inequality e.

Macro and micro sociology essays on race

Sociologists often limit their study of change to the emergence of modern industrial society, either to trace the paths taken by mature industrialized societies to reach their current state of development or to investigate the problems of developing nations. Here, too, different approaches emerge from different theoretical perspectives. Modernization theory, which until the s dominated accounts of development and change, grew out of functionalism and evolutionary perspectives.

In the version articulated by economist W.

Macro and micro sociology essays on race

Rostow , nonindustrial societies, through diffusion and a natural developmental sequence, were expected to follow a series of stages previously traversed by fully industrialized nations to attain the significant characteristics of modern societies considered prerequisites for development.

Although today largely abandoned in favor of more historically and materially grounded theories, modernization theory was highly influential among both scholars and policy makers of the post-World War II era. In fact, it can be argued that the influence of modernization theory in part explains its repudiation, since students of and from emerging developing nations viewed it as an instrument of continued colonial domination and capitalist exploitation.

Their search for tools to provide a better explanation for their disadvantaged and subordinate position in the international arena led to the adoption of Marxist-based models of dependency, underdevelopment, and world systems to replace modernization as the dominant approach to change and development within the modern era.

As summarized by Peter Evans and John Stephens , p. Alliances between local and international elites actively worked to defend the status quo distribution of power and privilege at the expense of peasant- and working-class majorities.

Later versions refined the models of class conflict and competition or, as in the writings of Samir Amin , elaborated the model of the relationships between center and periphery economies to show how underdevelopment grows out of the exploitive links between the two types of systems.

All versions contribute to a refutation of the trajectory of development described by modernization theory. A more global approach to development issues was formulated by Immanuel Wallerstein , , and his followers.

World system theory elaborates the Marxist model of economic domination into a system in which exploitation occurs worldwide. Wallerstein broadens the focus on class relations among and across nations to examine the development of an international division of labor in the capitalist world economy where core industrial nations exploit peripheral regions as sources of raw materials and labor.

This approach has been both enormously influential and controversial, generating massive amounts of research on the model itself, particular spatial and historical portions of the world system, and particular subsectors and groups.

A helpful overview that charts the intricacies of this perspective can be found in a text by Thomas Shannon The emphasis on First World as well as Third World development found in world-system theory provides a bridge to a slightly different tradition that focuses on the emergence of the core industrial nations and their political systems.

Much of this literature is concerned with development of modern political as well as economic systems. Numerous other studies pursue a similar comparative perspective on the upheavals that accompanied the emergence of modern Western industrial nations cf. One other type of study in this tradition deserves mention.

These are studies of social and political change that occur within a particular society at various stages in the industrialization process. John Walton provides a convenient typology based on cross-classifying epochs and processes of industrialization. The resulting types range from protoindustrialization through deindustrialzation. Studies from early periods focus on the emergence of particular classes, on class conflict, and on the influence of classes on the historical development of modern nations, as in E.

Influential studies of transitions in later periods of industrial development examine the consolidation of control of the labor process Burawoy ; Edwards , deindustrialization Bluestone and Harrison , informalization of labor markets Portes et al. Finally, while beyond the scope of this review, there are also other important traditions that have strong links to one or the other approaches described above.

One of these is found in a vast literature on social movements that has many points of intersection with the work on comparative and historical social and political change discussed here. Another is work that applies the theories of dependency and uneven development to regional development problems internal to particular societies.

Finally, there are structural and poststructural approaches to the development of major social institutions and forms of repression, as found in the complex but influential work of Michel Foucault , , While this last example could as easily be classified under studies of social institutions and processes, it is included here because of its focus on changes in historical times that have produced modern social forms.

State Formation and State Breakdown. The study of state formation and state breakdown has always been a central focus of macrosocial inquiry, especially in the area of comparative historical sociology. Studies of state formation examine the nature of state power and the processes by which it develops. While some sociologists have seen the state as emerging from internal dynamics of society, largely in terms of the interests and struggles of social classes, others have turned their attention to the external dynamics of society along with the market forces of the capitalist system.

Tilly , demonstrates that the modern states were created in the process of capital concentration and consolidated under the pressure of increased international military competition war and preparation for war. Michael Mann , examines the nature of power in human societies by focusing on the interrelations of four principal sources of social power—economic, ideological, military, and political resources—and relates them to the rise of city-states, militaristic empires, modern nation-states, and nationalism.

Contemporary theory of revolution and state breakdown starts with Barrington Moore who proposed a model of agrarian class politics. State breakdown occurs when the state experiences high levels of fiscal crisis induced by strain on resources from both internal elite conflicts and external military pressure.

This state-centered theme developed by Skocpol has been further expanded by Goldstone , who uses a structural-demographic approach to indicate that the early modern boom in population led to strain on state resources associated with the taxation system and economic development.

Goldstone argues that in a system tied to agricultural output, the agrarian state depends mainly on land taxes for revenue. As growing population places pressure on the agricultural economy, rising grain prices result in inflation that erodes state revenues, leads to higher taxes, and exacerbates elite conflict.

Rising prices generate profits for some elites who are quick to take advantage of commercial opportunities, but hurts other elites who are slow to adjust and lag behind in social mobility.

A state that suffers the geopolitical disadvantage of being surrounded by multiple enemy states experiences logistical overextension and fiscal crisis, and thus tends to decline and disintegrate to the point of revolution and state fragmentation.

Social Structures, Processes, and Institutions. The research described above incorporates investigation of many of the major social structures, processes, and institutions that form the core subject matter of sociology. Studying change in economic and political systems requires scrutiny of economies, polities, and other social institutions and their major organizational manifestations and constituencies.

However, other theoretical and substantive approaches subsumed under macrosociology either have fallen outside the scope of these large-scale studies of social change and development or are at their periphery.

Theoretical perspectives include relatively recent developments such as structural, poststructural, postmodern, and feminist theories.