The Three Basic Paradigms of Macrosociology: Functionalism, Neo-Marxism and Interaction Analysis

  • Raymond Boudon


Macrosociology is probably the least developed part of sociology. While macroeconomics is a well-organised body of knowledge which can be and is actually presented in textbooks which include a set of logically articulated topics, a treatise in macrosociology typically has the same appearance as philosophy texts; its chapters include presentations of A. Comte’s, Durkheim’s and Weber’s sociology, just as a philosophy text includes chapters on Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Hegel, etc. Why is this so? My contention in this paper is that the primary explanation for the difficulty experienced by sociologists in their attempt to give macrosociology a firm foundation derives chiefly from the coexistence in sociology of three basic paradigms which can scarcely be reconciled with one another. A second and complementary reason is that, while among these three paradigms — functionalism, neo-Marxism and interaction analysis — the third one is probably the most fruitful, at least potentially, although it has attracted less attention among sociologists than the others. In the present paper I will primarily refer to contemporary Western sociology, that is, to sociological works written after the Second World War and produced in Western countries.


Educational Opportunity Lower Class Social Conflict Basic Paradigm Philosophy Text 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raymond Boudon

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