Sociological Theories Of The Middle Range Summary

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Introduction This paper will analyse Merton’s (1949) chapter “On Sociological Theories of the Middle Range” pp. 39-53 in Social Theory and Social Structure. Sociological theories refer to logically interconnected sets of propositions from which empirical uniformities can be derived (Merton, 1949). Merton (1949) describes middle-range theories as ‘theories that lie between the minor but necessary working hypotheses that evolve in abundance in day to day research and the all-inclusive systematic efforts to develop unified theory that will explain all the observed uniformities of social behaviour, organization and social change’. This is in contrast to Talcott Parson’s ‘grand theory’ that explains every aspect of society from a structural level. Grand theorists seek to develop all-encompassing theories that can apply to society at large. However, because grand theories are so broad, it does not allow for the development of working hypotheses which can then be empirically confirmed by conducting research. Merton provides an alternative method to sociological theory by introducing theories of the middle range. Theories of the middle range are an approach to sociological theorizing aimed at integrating theory and empirical research. Middle range theories are principally used in sociology to guide empirical inquiry. It allows sociologists to find a way through the big abstract picture of society that does not allow any research. It helps to bring the focus down to a more manageable
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