Humans are the most complex creatures on the planet. We think in a whole other way than the other animals that inhabit the world with us which makes our interactions that much more interesting from a scientific point of view, if nothing else. Like some other animals, we group together to form societies of all different sizes in additional to the individual. However, we do this on a much more complicated scale than any other creature.
To use applied sociology for our individual problems we must first look at the different ways in which societies are arranged to better understand our place in them. This will also help in breaking down the scale of the issue at hand and using applied sociology methods effectively.
There are three different levels of practice in sociology; micro, meso and macro. The three different levels represent groupings of societies based on their scale. However, there is also one other group that applied sociology addresses, the individual. The methods of applied sociology that are used is going to be heavily influenced by whether you are dealing with a micro, meso or macro level society groupings.
As the name suggests this is the smallest of the levels of society. Micro level groupings are more intimate societies that many humans will automatically identify with first. Micro level societies are families, church groups, schools and the like. However, the complexity of this small group is that within the larger levels of society there are still smaller micro levels that make them up.
The micro level deals with the daily actions and interactions of people in society. It examines the social roles that we take on within society as well as how we react to society and understand it. At this more intimate level the focus is on how people think within society opposed to their behavior.
Micro level study of society hones in on the smallest elements that create the idea of what a society is, the norms and behaviors that make it recognizable as a its own society. Ritual, socialization, segregation of activities and sanctions are all indicators as to how one should interact within a society. They are the guidelines that mentally tip us off as to the type of micro level society we are in.
Meso level is the lesser known of the society groupings as they aren’t dealing with huge societies of the macro level that affect many or the intriguing smaller, micro levels that deals with day to day human interaction. The Meso level is the middle ground the organizations that are on a mid scale, like communities or neighborhoods compared the macro structure of an entire city.
The meso level also deals with the divisions within societies, how they are broken apart by income, ethnicity and the like. It’s the marriage between the micro and macro level studies, analyzing how these medium-sized groups form within the larger ones. These meso societies include institutions such as jail as well, smaller systems of people with a different set of guidelines for societal organization. This are also referred to as total institutions.
The Macro level is the largest of the society groupings. Macrosociology is a term describing the study of our largest societies and populations. In actuality the macro level doesn’t just study the largest of societies but also society as a whole. Globalization has aided in expanding the extent of study at the macro level to encompass more and more of the world.
The macro level looks at how the institutions within a large population affect the masses. Things like the economy, government structure, religion and more are all their own smaller groupings but together they form the boundaries of the macro level society. These institutions are interrelated and tend to be closely linked in their values giving off an overall feel of the culture that the society sprang from.
Many sociologist believe that it’s at the macro level of a society in these larger institutions that the root of a societies problems begin and therefore make them of great interest. Problems at this larger level tend to have a trickle down affect into the smaller scaled level of societies making it that much more important to address the problems here as soon as they’re found. From the macro level the internal structure of a society can begin to be rearranged to meet the needs of the growing, changing population.
At the very basis of any society no matter the size is the individual. We both make up societies and are affected by them daily. Since the beginning of sociology as a science, theorists have continuously pondered the question of how the individual and the society co-exists.
The societies that we belong to effect our judgment and decision making in a big way. As technology opens our world up exposing societies to each other in entirely new ways the focus on the individual has become a key subject for applied sociologists. Since the late 1990’s even multi-level models that focus on addressing issues in society at every level have begun to include the individual level.
The individual in society is clearly of great importance, but can be much harder to solve societal problems for. That’s because actions and events at every level affect the individual. This is made harder still by the fact that we are all unique with unique circumstances that feed into various societies. For years still to come the affect of society on suicide rates, spending habits, internet use and more will be questions about the individual level of society that applied sociologist try to answer.