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Sociological Consideration of the Theory of Action



Sociological Consideration of the Theory of Action


The theory of action is largely attributed to the works of the German philosopher and sociologist Maximilian Weber. The theory of social action as defined by Weber distinguishes non-social actions from social action. Under this theory, he defined social actions as those actions, which when done subjectively by the doer have an effect of influencing the actions and behaviors of others or convey a meaning to others whether done knowingly or unknowingly. In other words, social actions have to influence others because the action passes on a meaning to others. Therefore, it follows that actions that only influence one’s own behavior cannot be termed as social actions. Weber also ascribed characteristics within which these social actions ought to fall. For instance, for an action to be a social action the action must be influenced by a past, present or future act and must bear meaning in connection to that act. The act must also be done in the presence of others.

Why Psychology Proposes a “Theory of Action”

The basis of Weber’s theory of action is aimed at gaining a deeper understanding as to why social beings act in the manner that they do. One of the fundamental arguments that Weber puts across is that understanding human action cannot be achieved by simply observing the action. He argues that to understand human action one must act empathetically and place themselves in the shoes of the doer. This means understanding the culture and motives behind such actions.


Tension Addressed by Social Action Theory

The primary tension addressed by the social action theory is how to better understand human interaction by determining the motives behind the actions and what influences such motives. As such, social actions are distinguished from non-social actions by virtue of the meaning attached to such actions. The social action theory also pushed for subjective analysis of actions rather than an objective and observational approach (Raimo, Human Action and its Explanation: A Study on the Philosophical Foudations of Psychology).


Focus of Sociological Social Psychologists

Sociological social psychologists who ascribe to the social action theory focus on understanding the motives behind certain actions in order to understand human interaction and why social beings act in the manner in which they do. According to this school of thought, the sole use of observational understanding cannot lead to a proper understanding of human interaction. Sociologists also argue that it is essential to understand the cause and effect relationship of social actions in order to better understand its meaning.

   Sociological Consideration of the Theory of Action

Element at the Core of Symbolic Interactionist Explanation

The core idea behind the symbolic interactionist interaction is that human beings’ actions are highly influenced by assuming the role of interpreting how others perceive us through our actions. In other words, our actions are influenced by considering how others will see us. This means that we have a preconceived idea about how the society views certain behavior and actions and these ideas greatly influence our interactions (Raimo, A Theory of Social Action).


In summary, Weber’s theory of social action revolves around the idea that social actions have meaning attached to them. Accordingly, for social psychologists to have a better understanding of human interaction it is important to understand the motives behind such actions and what influenced these motives. Weber’s symbolic interactionist’s theory seems to try and rationalize this interaction by stating that our actions are influenced by our view of how others perceive us depending on our actions.


















Works Cited

Raimo, Tuomela. A Theory of Social Action. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012. Print.

—. Human Action and its Explanation: A Study on the Philosophical Foudations of Psychology. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012. Print.