conclusion is that levels of reality are embedded
in each other and, hence, have effects on the
operation of processes at other levels. Embed
ding does not mean that one level is reduced to
another but, instead, that processes operating at
one level are influenced by those at another
level. This fact suggests that theories seeking
to bridge across levels need to develop concepts,
propositions, and models that capture the key
dynamics of each level and, then, to develop
bridging propositions connecting the concepts
There are many ways to formulate such
bridging propositions. Network exchange the
ory proposes viewing the macro level as an
exchange network that, through the workings
of meso level relations, influences and is influ
enced by the actions of individuals located at
various places in the network. Other theories
reveal this same potential. For example, the
large theoretical literature on social movements
presents ample opportunities to explore how
the emotions and actions of individuals lead to
the formation of meso level organizational units
that push for change in macro level institu
tional structures and culture. Conversely, these
approaches can develop bridging propositions
on how macro and meso level conditions, such
as a stratification system embedded in the
institutionalization of power and production,
generate micro level responses of individuals
that can explain, under conditions specified by
bridging propositions, how micro encounters
coalesce into change oriented social movements.
The key point is that many theories illustrate
what we advocate moving across levels with a
variety of bridging propositions but most often
they are ad hoc in character. Needed is more
attention to the criteria, enumerated earlier, for
developing multilevel theory. The key is to
locate the level of reality to which most of the
concepts and propositions of a particular theory
pertain. Then, the next step should be to deter
mine how the values for these concepts are
loaded by other processes at other levels of rea
lity. Finally, bridging propositions can be devel
oped that denote generic relationships among
concepts denoting properties of different levels
of reality. If sociological theorists consistently
followed these three guidelines, the cross level
linkages would be more consistently made and,
over time, broader theoretical (as opposed to
specific empirical) insights into the generic
forms of linkage across levels of reality would
become ever more evident.
SEE ALSO: Exchange Network Theory;
Mathematical Sociology; Mesostructure; Micro
sociology; Structuration Theory; Theory; Theory
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