Evaluation of Action Theories
Action theories provide very deep understanding as to how people interact in small-scale situations.
Widely criticised as doesn't explain society as a whole and offer an explanation of wider social factors.
Gives no explanation of where symbolic meanings originate.
Fails to explain differences in behaviours and power between social groups and why these differences might occur.
Social action theorists see individuals as social actors who act rather than react.
People make own choices and take their own action rather than being controlled by social structures.
Choices people make and their behaviours key to studying and understanding society. Society is constructed by individual's meanings, motives, behaviours and negotiations.
Action theories- micro theories as looking at individual and their actions and choices rather than big structures of society.
3 types of action theories
Social action theory
Weber said sociology needs combination of structural approaches (Marxism) and action approaches to understand society.
Two levels human behaviour is described as:
The level of cause- how behaviour is shaped by factors within society. What makes us do the things we do and behave in a particular way.
The level of meaning- the meanings that people attach to actions and behaviours. Why these things have happened.
Weber's 4 types of action:
Instrumentally rational action- 'Sue builds a bridge to get across the river' (needs to).
Value-rational action- 'Sue builds a bridge because she likes bridges' (Want to).
Traditional action- 'Sue built a bridge because her family have always built bridges' (tradition to).
Affectual action- 'Sue built a bridge in memory of her husband' (out of love).
Criticisms of Weber
Focusses too much on individual meanings in society.
Difficult to classify actions as one of Weber's 4 types, many other reasons for people acting and behaving in a particular way.
Mead argued that most human interaction is symbolic. Example- when you wave at a friend across a street, a symbol (wave) conveys meaning of your action (saying hello). Mead argued gap between your friend seeing your symbol and them responding to it is when they're interpreting action. To interpret your action, must put themselves in your position. Known as 'taking the role of the other'.
- work is referred to as dramaturgical approach and own brand of symbolic interactionism. He argues that people work out strategies in dealing with others, strategies are constantly changing to fit in society.
Social world can be analysed as if it were a giant drama/play where people act out a range of roles given to them by society.
Garfinkel argued society is something created from the 'bottom up'. This means that society is construct and shaped by own behaviours.
Focus on methods used to create and understand meanings, because unclear leads to indexicality.
the idea meanings of society difficult to understand because it depends on their context and how they're shaped.
To stop lack of clarity from causing social chaos (anomie) engage in reflexivity. Refers to using common sense to determine what something means or behaviours of someone. Preventing society from breaking down.
Sociology isn't objective
Action theorists dispute claim that sociology is objective because meanings and labels can be had on actions but there can be several meanings and labels on the same action. Every person will interpret an action differently, what one person considers to be normal, another might not.