Given these polarized interpretations of sociological theory
of the middle range, it may be helpful to reiterate the attributes of this
1. Middle-range theories consist of limited sets of assumptions from
which specific hypotheses are logically derived and confirmed by empirical
2. These theories do not remain separate by are consolidated into wider
networks of theory, as illustrated by theories of level of aspiration,
reference-group, and opportunity-structure.
3. These theories are sufficiently abstract to deal with differing
spheres of social behavior and social structure, so that they transcend
sheer description or empirical generalization. The theory of social
conflict, for example, has been applied to ethnic and racial conflict,
class conflict, and international conflict.
4. This type of theory cuts across the distinction between microsociological
problems, as evidenced in small group research, and macrosociological problems,
as evidenced in comparative studies of social mobility and formal organization,
and the interdependence of social institutions.
5. Total sociological systems of theory--such as Marx's historical
materialism, Parson's theory of social systems and Sorokin's integral sociology--represent
general theoretical orientations rather than the rigorous and tightknit
systems envisaged in the search for a "unified theory" in physics.
6. As a result, many theories of the middle range are consonant with
a variety of systems of sociological thought.
7. Theories of the middle range are typically in direct line of continuity
with the work of classical theoretical formulations. We are all residuary
legatees of Durkheim and Weber, whose works furnish ideas to be followed
up, exemplify tactics of theorizing, provide models for the exercise of
taste in the selection of problems, and instruct us in raising theoretical
questions that develop out of theirs.
8. The middle-range orientation involves the specification of ignorance.
Rather than pretend to knowledge where it is in fact absent, it expressly
recognizes what must still be learned in order to lay the foundation for
still more knowledge. It does not assume itself to be equal to the
task of providing theoretical solutions to all the urgent practical problems
of the day but addresses itself to those problems that might now be clarified
in the light of available knowledge (1968, pp. 68-69).