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Tying Micro and Macro

What Fills up the Sociological Vacuum?


Mikolaj Pawlak

This study critically discusses the thesis on the sociological vacuum formulated by Stefan Nowak. The author’s aim is to refute the claim that the sociological vacuum is relevant for major social processes occurring in Poland. He presents the sociological vacuum in the context of the debate on micro and macro levels and discusses how the theory of fields and social network analysis is useful to reconcile the micro-macro divide. The book considers the uses of the sociological vacuum in explaining such phenomena as the Solidarność social movement, civil society, social capital, and democracy. In the empirical part, the author confronts the data on identifications with the data on relations and claims that the vacuum is not in the society but it in sociology.

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Part I: The micro-macro problem in sociology: theoretical background


1 Classical approaches to the micro-macro problem in sociology

1.1 Introduction

The aim of this chapter is to briefly present and summarize the main stances on the micro-macro problem in sociology. I discuss the differences between the micro-macro pairing with other – sometimes overlapping but still different – pairings important for sociological theory: individual-society and agency-structure. The proper understanding of the micro-macro debates and possible links between the micro and macro is an important context for the interpretation of social processes with the use of the concept of the sociological vacuum. As Jonathan H. Turner (2016: 123) noticed, “the failure of closing the micro-macro gap in sociological theory was often used by enemies of sociology that it is not a science.” Yet, Turner (2010c: 1) in his other works showed that problems with the micro-macro link are not just a domain of sociologists: in physics, subatomic physics is not very well integrated with astrophysics; in biology, genetics is still not integrated with population ecology; while in economics, the gap between micro- and macroeconomics is still not filled.

I believe that the story I present in this chapter is a story of relative success. Debating about connections between the micro and macro from the times of Karl Marx to the present, in my opinion, have brought conceptual improvement and theories which allow to understand different levels of social reality in a more refined way. The newest solutions to the micro-macro question will be presented in...

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