Interpretive Methods: Macromethods

Robin S Stryker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This article uses Weber's work to elucidate key features of macrointerpretive methods. Although relying on a logic different from that of frequentist statistical methods, macrointerpretive methods are based on coherent methodological principles and procedures. The goal of all macrointerpretive method is to render large-scale social actions and processes intelligible. Imputation of chains of meaning, motivation, and consequent likely courses of action are one hallmark. Macrointerpretive work is profoundly historical, and is well suited to reconciling agency and structure. It exhibits a continuous interplay of ideas and evidence, and combines inductive with deductive reasoning to solve anomalies, explain historically specific event sequences, and seek limited historical generalizations that are value-relevant and culturally significant. Enriched by multiple analytic techniques including diverse formal and nonformal narrative and comparative methods, macrointerpretive scholarship embodies tensions between the prominence accorded to narrative vs. comparisons, the concrete and particular vs. the abstract and general, conceptual understanding vs. causal analysis, and subjectivism vs. objectivism. Although built around a diversity of techniques, macrointerpretive scholarship of all sorts is well suited to forming and empirically examining concepts, hypotheses, and theories that help us understand how social structures work, how they reproduce themselves, and how they change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages3
ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
ISBN (Print)9780080970868
StatePublished - Mar 26 2015


  • Macrointerpretive
  • Max Weber

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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