Sociological theories, perspectives or paradigms refer to complex methodological and theoretical frameworks used in explaining and analyzing objects of social study (Cahill & Sandstrom, 2010). These theories also enable sociologists to organize social knowledge. This field of sociology is continuously evolving, and therefore cannot be assumed as complete. According to Adams & Sydie (2002), it can involve analysis at both micro-level and macro-level. Macro-level analysis concentrates on social structures that influence family. On the other hand, micro-level analysis involves a close-up study on social interactions that occur in certain situations within the family. Cahill & Sandstrom (2010) defined sociological theory as a set of interconnected ideas, which allow systemization of the social environment. This knowledge is helpful in explaining the social world and predicting the future of social world. In this regard, this paper compares and contrasts theoretical approaches to the study of families: macro-sociological versus micro-sociological factors.
The sociological theories of Parsons, Weber, Durkheim and Marx and the functional school are majorly macro-sociological and structural. According to Giddens & Griffiths (2006), European social theorists developed these theories in the late 19th century and early 20th century. These theories are targeted at understanding the new social world of contemporary, industrialized and urban society. On the other hand, social theorists of North America developed micro-sociological theories in the late 19th century and early 20th century. These theorists focused on comprehending the bases of interactions and social actions among the members of family or society. Because these interactions underlie social structures, define social world, create and maintain families or societies, sociologists have to be aware of them. There are various types of interaction or micro-sociological theories (Cahill & Sandstrom, 2010). The first one is symbolic interactions, which looks at meaning, interactions and action at the micro-level. George Herbert Mead and Herbert Blumer developed the symbolic perspective. The second type is ethnomethodology, which refers to the interpretive sociology (Cahill & Sandstrom, 2010). It is associated with the phenomenological approach of Alfred Schultz.
Macro-Social Vs. Micro-Social Issues
According to Jayapalan (2001), macro-social theories concern social class. Ouellet (2009) pointed out that these theories are concerned with the reasons why and how people have different education, professional and wealth opportunities. Some authors have also associated these theories with the arrangement of labor, rewards and individual work. Other social issues dealt with by macro-social theories include the role women, legal system and religion in the society. Besides studying the social structure, theorists of macro-sociology have also explained social change by focusing on large-scale movements. On the other hand, micro-sociological theories deal with what people think, do and how they interact in their daily lives (Giddens & Griffiths, 2006). As such, the social issues regarding this theory are symbols used by people in face-to-face interactions. These symbols are communicated via emotions, body language, and verbally. Other social issues encompassed by this theory include various understanding of social facts by the diverse society comprised of people with various backgrounds.
Macro-sociological theories are large-scale features and structures of the family or society (Cahill & Sandstrom, 2010). These features and structures include division of labor, social class, rationalizations, form or authority and wide historical development. On the other hand, micro-sociological theories refer to people interacting with other people. Frequently, these interactions occur in small group settings.
The macro-sociological theories, unlike micro-sociological theories, focus on average regularities and actions, which are common to a large number of social actors. On the other hand, micro-sociological theories focus on individual actions, the manner in which interaction occurs, and the exceptionality of individuals (Cahill & Sandstrom, 2010). The micro-sociological theories focus on how family members interpret a situation and interact with other people within the family. According to Shepard (2009), the traditional social approaches frequently began with what might have been considered micro concepts, which were used in developing macro-sociological theories. For instance, Marx commenced with a micro concept known as commodity. He went ahead to derive a study of capitalism, which he deployed in explaining the structure of society (Jayapalan, 2001). The theories of Parsons and Weber are about social actions. As such, Parsons refers to them as action theories. As much as the approaches of Parsons and Weber might have resulted in an interaction perspective, none of them developed such an approach. Weber focused on the meaning, though he did not concentrate on its definition. Indeed, much of Weber’s work is devoted to organizations, structures of power, history and groups. On the other hand, Parsons commenced with an individual act under certain circumstances.
The macro-sociological theories of studying families seem to be largely determined by structural elements of the family or society or the value and cultural system. According to Turner (2006), macro-sociological theories frequently show little room for analysis of the creative ways in which individuals interact with others. This implies that cultural values, social norms, religion, laws, consciousness, ideology and social class influence the actions. The impacts of these macro forces on social action are determinate and can be assessed practically in sociological studies (Cahill & Sandstrom, 2010). On the other hand, micro-sociological theorists view individuals to be creative, with distinctive individual and selves forms of interaction. For many social theorists, social interaction and action can only be studied by assessing carefully the manner in which organizations, structures and symbols are comprehended by individuals and how different persons interpret them (Ouellet, 2009).
The development of socialization, a child and the formation of individual and self-identity constitutes a significant part of the micro-sociological theory. In this theory, according to Giddens & Griffiths (2006), identity and personality are not determined biologically. However, personality and identity are developed dynamically within the social environment. Despite micro-sociological theories identifying symbols as significant, these are not determined as the norms, values or consciousness of the macro-sociological theories. Sociologists dealing with micro-sociological theories have argued that the grounds for social interaction are a set out of the understandings and symbols possessed by a person in a group. According to Giddens & Griffiths (2006), the symbols and understandings are developed via continual interaction and socializations with other persons.
Decision or Practice
Another difference between micro-sociological and macro-sociological theories of studying families is the fundamental approach to social action (Cahill & Sandstrom, 2010). Macro-sociological theories, such as those of Marx, Parsons and Durkheim seem to view action as resulting from a considered and conscious decision on the part of the individual actor. According to Adams & Sydie (2002), macro-sociological approaches might derive from the illumination perception of individuals as weighting alternatives, and rational decision makers. For instance, Parsons, a macro-social theorist, advocates for the logical process of decision-making. On the other hand, micro-sociological approach seems to concentrate more on actual activities an individual does in social context. This theory does not focus on whether or not an individual’s action is consciously aimed and considered at achieving a certain goal. In addition, micro-sociological theorists assess the practices, experiences, situations and actions of persons in order to see what they do. Despite micro-sociological theories not having an overall presumption of the society, macro-sociological theories have little analysis of social interactions (Cahill & Sandstrom, 2010).
Similarities Between Micro-Sociological and Macro-Sociological Theories
The first similarity is that these two theories were formed during the same time at around 19th and 20th century (Giddens & Griffiths, 2006). However, these two theories differ in terms of structures or actions, creativity, and practice or decision, as discussed above.
Both macro-social and micro-social issues in the two theories are interconnected by the fact that all men, women and children constitute the society, whereas the social structure affects the members of the family or society (Giddens & Griffiths, 2006). The study of micro-social and macro-social issues is different, because they have different methods and goals. For instance, a social change, which is macro-social issue, takes place when people acknowledge an idea (Cahill & Sandstrom, 2010). The manner in which an individual hears about the idea and why he or she is persuaded are components of micro-sociology. Similarly, the capability of an individual to comprehend the world and decide freely is directly influenced by the educational system of the society examined by macro-sociology (Cahill & Sandstrom, 2010).
Sociological theories, perspectives or paradigms refer to complex methodological and theoretical frameworks used in explaining and analyzing objects of social study. The best sociological theory to study families is the micro-sociological theory because it deals with what people think, do and how they interact in their daily lives. The sociological issues of micro-sociological theory are uniform across all families and can be easily examined. The sociological theories of Parsons, Weber, Durkheim and Marx and the functional school are majorly macro-sociological and structural. Macro-sociological theories are large-scale features and structures of the family or society. The social issues dealt with by macro-sociological theories include the role of women, legal system and religion in the society. On the other hand, micro-sociological theories deal with what people think, do and how they interact in the daily lives. As such, the social issues regarding this theory are symbols used by people in face-to-face interactions. Another difference between micro-sociological and macro-sociological theories of studying families is the fundamental approach to social action.