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A major task for social theory in the 1990s is to explain the relationship between individuals and social structures. This book makes two simple suggestions for forging a micro/macro link. First, theorists should abandon their search for universal laws governing society. Second, abandoning overarching laws does not leave postmodern mayhem as the only alternative. Following twentieth century scientific discoveries, this book argues that while micro and macro social processes remain related, they do so only as an aftermath of autonomous developments in each level. Since the two autonomous levels may emerge at odds, or in tandem, their relationship becomes contingent and unpredictable. The concept of contingency is a breakthrough for social theory. Where current micro/macro debates are merely an expanded, but veiled, regurgitation of philosophical issues debated long ago, the concept of contigency allows social theory to transcend old paradigms and explain contemporary society.
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Gary Itzkowitz is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
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