Quality and Quantity

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 37–55 | Cite as

Alternative procedures for macrosociological theorizing

  • Kenneth D. Bailey
Research Paper


Forty years ago sociology possessed a plethora of broad theories, some untestable and others merely untested. Merton rightly argued that global theorizing could be premature if the middle-range groundwork were not properly accomplished. At the present time sociology possesses a plethora of middle-range theories, and is close to paralyzing fragmentation. This paper argues that the time has come for a return to classical concerns as a complement (not an alternative) to continuing middle-range theorizing. Three strategies for macrosociological theorizing are presented: the divisive, aggregative, and direct. The divisive strategy is largely nonexistent, and Merton argued strongly against the direct, leaving the aggregative as his method of choice. We argue here that the concept of middle-range theory is vague, and it is exceedingly difficult to distinguish middle-range from non-middle-range theories. Out of 27 cells in our table, only 14 are identifiable as middle-range, and 9 are indeterminable. We argue that the aggregative strategy is probably not feasible at this time, but that all three strategies should be used, with an emphasis on the direct.


Unify Theory Alternative Procedure American Sociological Review Sociological Theory Middle Range 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth D. Bailey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesU.S.A.

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