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On the Microfoundations of Macrosociology

Randall Collins
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 86, No. 5 (Mar., 1981), pp. 984-1014
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2778745
Page Count: 31
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On the Microfoundations of Macrosociology
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Abstract

Detailed microsociological studies of everyday life activity raise the challenge of making macrosociological concepts fully empirical by traslating them into aggregates of micro-events. Micro-evidence and theoretical critiques indicate that human cognitive capacity is limited. Hence actor facing complex contingencies rely largely upon tacit assumptions and routine. The routines of physical property and organizational authority are upheld by actors' tacit monitoring of social coalitions. Individuals continuously negotiate such coalitions in chains of interaction rituals in which conversations create symbols of group membership. Every encounter is a marketpace in which individuals tacitly match conversational and emotional resources acquire from previous encounters. Individuals are motivated to move toward those ritual encounters in which their microresources pay the greatest emotional returns until they reach personal equilibrium points at which their emotional returns stabilize or decline. Large-scale changes in social structure are produced by aggregate changes in the three types of microresources: increases in generalized culture due to new communications media or specialized culture-producing activities; new "techologies" of emotional production; and new particularized cultures (individual reputations) due to dramatic, usually conflictual, events. A method of macrosampling the distribution of microresources is proposed.

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