The Social Action Theory and Symbolic Interactionism

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The Social Action Theory and Symbolic Interactionism Max Weber believed that individuals were the key to society. He developed social action theory, the purpose of which was to find out why individuals function in certain ways. He thought that every social action performed by an individual had a meaning attached to it. Social actions are the result of conscious thought processes that take into consideration the reactions of other individuals. Weber identified four types of social action which include, reason (an instrumentally rational or calculated action), value or rational action (determined by belief), emotion or effectual action (dependent upon the feelings of the individual), and traditional action (determined by habit). In order to investigate society and the role of the individual within it, Weber developed a method of understanding called Verstehen. There are two types of Verstehen. Aktuelles Verstehen is a process of direct observation, and Erklarendes Verstehen, which is a process by which you try to understand the motives of the individual from their own perspective. The main concept of Verstehen is to look at society through the eyes of the individual to try to interpret things in a similar manner to which they would themselves. Verstehen has various criticisms. It is possible that observation may be influenced by personal bias. Direct observation also requires prior knowledge of the culture being studied. Also, Verstehen assumes that people in society rationally consider their actions, which may not always be the case. Weber believed that class would diversify (instead of the polarisation that Marx predicted) ... ... middle of paper ... ...e consciously interpret situations - a lot of actions take place on automatic pilot almost, often out of habit. Bibliography Dictionary of Sociology, N. Abercrombie, S. Hill & B.S. Turner, Pengiuin Books Ltd, 1994 Introducing Sociology, R. Osbourne & B. Van Loon, Icon Books UK, 1999 Sociology class notes Sociology Themes and Perspectives, Haralambos and Holborn, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2000 The New Introducing Sociology, Peter Worsley et al, Penguin Books Ltd, 1992 The Students Companion to Sociology, C. Ballard, J. Gubbay & C. Middleton, Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1997
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