Middle Range Theory

Topics: Sociology, Talcott Parsons, Science Pages: 2 (695 words) Published: December 4, 2014
Middle-range theory, developed by Robert K. Merton, is an approach to sociological theorizing aimed at integrating theory and empirical research. It is currently the de facto dominant approach to sociological theory construction,[1] especially in the United States. Middle-range theory starts with an empirical phenomenon (as opposed to a broad abstract entity like the social system) and abstracts from it to create general statements that can be verified by data.[2] This approach stands in contrast to the earlier "grand" theorizing of social theory, such as functionalism and many conflict theories. Raymond Boudon has argued that "middle-range theory" is the same concept that most other sciences simply call 'theory'.[3] The analytical sociology movement has as its aim the unification of such theories into a coherent paradigm at a greater level of abstraction. The midrange approach was developed by Robert Merton as a departure from the general social theorizing of Talcott Parsons. Merton agreed with Parsons that a narrow empiricism consisting entirely of simple statistical or observational regularities cannot arrive at successful theory. However, he found that Parsons' "formulations were remote from providing a problematics and a direction for theory-oriented empirical inquiry into the observable worlds of culture and society".[4] He was thus directly opposed to the abstract theorizing of scholars who are engaged in the attempt to construct a total theoretical system covering all aspects of social life. With the introduction of the middle range theory program, he advocated that sociologists should concentrate on measurable aspects of social reality that can be studied as separate social phenomena, rather than attempting to explain the entire social world. He saw both the middle-range theory approach and middle-range theories themselves as temporary: when they matured, as natural sciences already had, the body of middle range theories would become a system of...
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