RELATED TERMS: Ethnography; Ethnomethodology; Actor-Network Theory

The decades from the 1960s to the 1980s saw an increase in micro-social studies and methodology. The 1980s saw an attempt to bridge the gap between the more recent micro- studies and the older macro-social studies and methodologies. Some authors began to reconstruct macrosociological phenomena based upon a micro-sociological foundation, while others developed new macro-social perspectives, such as neofunctionalism or neo-Marxism, that addressed and incorporated micro-level phenomena.

The challenge posed by micro-sociological approaches can be seen in two distinctive but interlocking developments: the move from a normative notion of social order to that of a cognitive order, and the rejection of both methodological collectivism and individualism in favour of methodological situationalism. Both developments call into question the dimensions in terms of which the micro-macro problem has traditionally been posed, such as the juxtaposition of individual and collectivity or of individual action and social structure. In the end, they point towards a reconstruction of macro-social theory and methodology based upon an integration of micro-sociological results.

One approach which emerged is actor-network theory, which highlights the actant as a phenomenon that exists at both the micro-social and the macro-social, forestalling the opposotion between the indvidual and the collective. Through networked, distributed agency, the collective runs through the individual and the individual runs through the collective and both run through the materiality of the worlds that they co-constitute.

Prior to the invervention of the micro-sociological studies, two conceptions of social order had dominated Western social philosophy since its beginnings: the integration theory of society, which conceives of social structure as a functionally integrated system regulated by normative consensus, as articulated by Durkheim and Parsons; and the coercion theory of society, which views social structure as a form of organization held together by force and constraint transcended in an unending process of change, as articulated by Marx.


Knorr-Cetina, K. and Cicourel, A. V. (eds) Advances in social theory and methodology: towards an integration of micro- and macro-sociology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.