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Macrosociology vs microsociology

Created by Sydney Brown.

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Video transcript

Voiceover: Macrosociology and microsociology are two different levels of analysis in sociology to study societies. You need a place to start when you're looking at a society, otherwise it can feel rather overwhelming. Because not only do you have the individual people making up the population you're studying, you also have the different groups that also make up your population and the communities and the cultures and the subcultures. And you have your population as a whole that you can look at. So if you can at least figure out what perspective you want to start with, it'll help you find a good foot hold to proceed. Okay, macrosociology is the large scale perspective. You're looking at big phenomena that affect your whole population, or a least a big portion of it. You're looking at social structures and institutions. You're looking at whole civilizations or societies or populations. And what are you looking for? Well, you're looking for patterns. You're trying to find the effects that the whole big picture have on the life of small groups and individuals. You're analyzing large collectives like cities for broad social trends. And you can get a lot of statistical data from these big populations. But be careful how you analyze it. Don't ask a question when you already have an answer in mind, because you might interpret the data to prove your point. But, that won't actually tell you anything about the population you're studying. Don't find the one statistical test that makes the data fit your story, let the data tell the story. Macrosociology deals with matters like war, or poverty, or the health care institution, or international stuff like the world economy. Functionalism is a social theory that comes from the macro perspective. Basically, functionalism looks at a society as a whole, and how the institutions that make up a society adapt to keep the society stable and functioning. Conflict theory is also a macroperspective. Real quick, conflict theory is the idea that societies are made up of institutions that benefit the powerful and create inequalities, and large groups of people are at odds with each other until the conflict is resolved and a new social order is created with equally distributed power. Okay, so that's the big picture perspective. Let's go to the other extreme and check out microsociology. Kind of sounds like microscope, right? With a microscope you can look at individual cells or really tiny things. Well, in microsociology you're looking at the small scale every day, face to face social interactions between individuals or maybe small groups. You're looking at families and schools and other small social interactions. Unlike macrosociology, in microsociology you don't have the same large test group. So microsociology is more of an interpretive analysis of the society. You look at a sample of your society and interpret how those individual interactions would affect the larger patterns of the society, like institutions and social structures. You can look at how the expectations of a teacher will affect a student's grades, or you can look at doctor-patient interactions, or how family dynamics affect the expression of prejudiced attitudes. So you can get an idea of microsociology in practice, you can look at symbolic interactionism, which is a social theory that is a microperspective. Symbolic interactionism focuses on the individual and the significance or meaning they give to objects, events, symbols and other things in their life. Cool, so you have macrosociology starting from the big picture and seeing how it affects the individual. And you have microsociology going the other way, looking at the individual interactions and seeing how they affect the big picture.