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Tying Micro and Macro

What Fills up the Sociological Vacuum?

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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 II: The sociological vacuum: the story of the spell cast on Polish sociologists

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4 Polish sociology in the 1970s, Stefan Nowak, and the sociological vacuum thesis

4.1 Introduction

The aim of this chapter is to introduce the thesis on the sociological vacuum and clearly present the assumptions behind it. The thesis on the sociological vacuum is treated in this book as a key to understanding the salience of conceptualizing the micro-macro link in sociology. Thus, this chapter may be treated as a background description introducing the actual narrative on the most important question of sociology in relation to the problem of the link between the micro- and macro-levels of analysis. This chapter is also an introduction to the second part of the book. Making the concept of the sociological vacuum clear is a preliminary condition to examining how this concept was later applied in various research domains.

The chapter has the following arrangement. In order to understand the most often cited sociological statement on Polish society (Pawlak 2015), I present its founder professor Stefan Nowak and describe the social, as well as the theoretical, context in which the concept was launched. I briefly reconstruct the survey-positivist program dominating in Polish sociology of 1970s. After a presentation of the thesis itself, I discuss the possible interpretations of its theoretical and methodological validity.

4.2 Stefan Nowak

Stefan Nowak was born in 1924 and started his sociological studies at the University of Warsaw, right after the end of World War II, in 1946. His...

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