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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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8 Quality of democracy: social base for political institutions

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8.1 Introduction

In this chapter I deal with the concept of democracy from the perspective of connecting micro- and macro-levels of social phenomena. Democracy is a central notion for the Western culture and a proper discussion of its roots and history would be a life-time project. In literature, it is possible to find at least six general understandings of democracy, which in some aspects contradict each other (Coppedge, Gerring 2011). Thus, I limit my considerations to the aspects important for the problem of the way in which political system is capable of transforming the will of individuals into the action of a whole state; in other words: the way in which the micro-level is linked to the macro-level by mechanism of democratic decision-making. In the studies of democracy, the micro-level is very often identified as the ← 178 | 179 → level of individual – it is the basic assumption of modern democracies, that each individual has an equal vote. For some scholars, the micro-level in studies of democracy is the level of interactions in which decisions might be taken after direct considerations, or interactions which shape opinions then influencing political acts of individuals. The macro-level is usually located on the level of state or whole political system. The micro-macro issue in studies of democracy is, to some extent, overlapping with the individual-society issue. In this chapter, however, there will be no considerations about the agency-structure pairing.

I start with an excursion into the classic writings in the...

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