ACTION THEORY
DiagramInteractionist approaches
Weber’s Social
Action Theory
Symbolic
Interactionism
MeadThe
Role of the
Other -
Symbols
...
Social Action Theory Evaluation / Evidence
Intro
Type Explanation
Traditional
Action
Action is carried out because of cust...
Symbollic Interactionism
Symbolic interactionism: A sociological perspective on self and society based on the ideas of Geo...
Blumer
 Blumer was a student of Mead
 He developed Mead’s ideas
Blumer, 1962 developed Mead’s approach. Blumer
emphasize...
Labelling theory
H Becker
“Social groups create deviance by making rules,
whose infraction constitutes deviance, and by
ap...
Phenomenology
Intro Detail Evaluation / Example / How it helps us
understand society:
The world only makes sense because w...
• Assess the usefulness of micro sociology to our understanding of society.
33 marks
Examiners advice: You should begin by...
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  1. 1. ACTION THEORY
  2. 2. DiagramInteractionist approaches Weber’s Social Action Theory Symbolic Interactionism MeadThe Role of the Other - Symbols verses instincts Blumer 3 key principles: • Actions are based on meanings • Meanings come from interactions • And from how we interpret these interactions Labelling Theory Definition The looking glass self Career Goffman’s Dramaturgical model Impression management and roles Phenomenology There is no social structure out there! Society doesn’t exist – it is a social construct Ethnomethodology Schutzclaims that we make sense of the world through typifications – generally agreed meanings. These give the appearance of an ordered world and allow communication Garfinkleclaims that even though meanings are potentially unclear (indexicality) we are always trying to impose order on our worlds and use reflexivity to do this. Social structure can influence how we act.
  3. 3. Social Action Theory Evaluation / Evidence Intro Type Explanation Traditional Action Action is carried out because of custom or habit, such as buying gifts at Christmas Affective Action Action that is influenced by an emotional state, such as crying at a funeral Rational value- orientated action Action that is led by an overriding ideal or value. If a person is committed to a particular religious belief, it is rational within that belief system to prey. Rational goal- orientated action This is a highly rational form of action where people calculate the likely results of behaviour in relation to a goal. A student may consider various costs and benefits of different courses of action before selecting a particular behaviour. They may put more effort into an essay for one teacher because they write the student reports. Social Action theory addresses some of the weaknesses of the structural approach. One of the criticisms made of some structuralist research, such as work by Functionalists and Marxists, has been that all-embracing theories may be thought of first and then evidence selected to back them up. Instead they recommended doing close and detailed observation of some aspect of social life first and then deriving a groundedtheory from their findings. Weber argues that we should avoid generalising theories because people are not determined by general laws. Social science should proceed by understanding human action. Weber’s work has been influential in the development of the sociology of everyday life. Weber’s approach lead to a view called methodological individualism which focuses on how people actively engage in social interaction. Structures do not determine our behaviour. Weber is critical of Marx, and believes that it is individuals that shape the development of society. Schutz (1972) argues that the action theory is too individualistic and cannot explain the shared nature of meanings. Weber’s typology of action is difficult to apply and some actions belong to more than one type of action identified by Weber. We can never truly understand an individual’s actions so Weber’s idea of verstehen cannot be applied. Lee and Newby (1983) describe Weber as a methodological individualist who ignores how the structure of society Social action theorists believe that the best approach to the understanding of society is by studying small groups. Weber argues that we should avoid generalising theories because people are not determined by general laws. Social science should proceed by understanding human action. He proposed 4 types of action Max Weber 1864 - 1920
  4. 4. Symbollic Interactionism Symbolic interactionism: A sociological perspective on self and society based on the ideas of George Mead (1934). The central theme of symbolic interactionism is that human life is based on the use of symbols. Through language and communication, symbols provide the means by which reality is constructed.Examines meaning in context of small-scale interaction within small social groups. Meaning is basis of small group interaction, which shapes society. Meaning is important because “when men define situations as real, they become real in their consequences” (W.I. Thomas) Successful interaction takes place when group members share meaning of nature of situation. Intro Detail Evaluation / Example / How it helps us understand society: Mead (1863 – 1931) Regarded as the founder of Symbolic Interactionism We create our world through _______________ _____ ___ ___________________, which are based on the meanings we give to situations. Our behaviour is not fixed / instinctive. We give _______________ to the things which are important to us. We do this by attaching symbols to the world, the symbol represents something else. When something happens we go through an _______________ ______________before responding to it. This gives us a chance to choose an appropriate response. For example if someone shakes their fist at someone the person will think about the meaning of the _____________ – is the fist shaker angry or joking. We work out the meanings by taking the role of the ______________ – which is an ability which develops through social interaction. To function in society we must be able to see ourselves as others do which then helps us share symbols and language and to _______ as others require us to. (Mead) Although Meads theory is over 70 years old, humans do relate the _____________of symbols to what they do,i.e at a red traffic light, the majority of people would stop. Therefore, Mead is correct to an extent. However, Mead states that we as individuals shape society, but for the majority to abide by the symbols, rules and regulations there must be some sort of________________ __________________, norms and values. In order to have shared meanings, it must feed of some sort of structural factors and it therefore over-emphasises the significance of the individual. It cannot explain ______________ relationships in society in the way that Marxists or feminists have. It does not explain why some individuals / social groups are more powerful than others. It concentrates too much on small-scale, ____________ aspects of social life, therefore ignoring the much bigger picture of life at a society-wide level of analysis. It fails to explain social _____________and social_________________. Interpretive- phase actpower actions-and- interactions other change symbol ordermeaningsmeaningstrivial collective- conscience
  5. 5. Blumer  Blumer was a student of Mead  He developed Mead’s ideas Blumer, 1962 developed Mead’s approach. Blumer emphasizes that meanings develop during interaction and are not fixed. There are three key principles to actions: 1. Our _______________are based on the meanings we give to situations and are not instinctive like those of animals. People do not react automatically to external stimuli but interpret their meaning before reacting (for example, interpreting the meaning of a red light before deciding how to react to it)These meanings come from the interaction process, they are not fixed but are changeable to an extent. 2. The _______________we give to situations are dependant on the interpretive process we use – especially taking on the role of the other. 3. Action is partly ______________ as we internalise the expectations of others, however it is not completely fixed and there is room for personal choice. Rules and Structures restrict social action and shape the interpretation of meaning to some extent, but they are never absolutely fixed. He criticises the positivist stress on establishing correlations and laws of human behaviour in that they do not capture meaning and essence of human behaviour. He advocates __________________ methods so that the sociologist is “feeling ones way inside the experience of the actor”. It examines interaction ‘in a vacuum’, makes no reference to the social, economic, political or historical context of interaction. Marxists in particular criticise its lack of consideration of the nature and distribution of _____________. It exaggerates extent to which interpretation of meaning is________________. We do not ‘start from scratch’ each time we interact, most of our behaviour is based on habit, we perform it unconsciously. It reflects the individualistic culture of USA where it was developed. European culture has more of an appreciation of the role of _______________. Cooley We use the way other people interpret our behaviour as evidence of who and what we are. Charles Cooley referred to this idea as the _______________________________ We interpret what the behaviour of other people towards us tells us about ourselves. We frequently interpret the behaviour of others in ways that confirm the image we have of our selves. Some people _________________________are more significant to us than others and their views carry more weight with us. We try to manipulate the impression that other people have of us __________________________ Structure Meanings Predictable conscious qualitative Actions power ‘significant others’Impression management“looking-glass self”
  6. 6. Labelling theory H Becker “Social groups create deviance by making rules, whose infraction constitutes deviance, and by applying those rules to particular people and labelling them as outsiders.” The key concepts which underpin this theory are: The definition of the situation – its____________– if people define a situation as real it will have real consequences. So if we believe something to be true, then this belief affects how we __________and therefore has consequences. The looking glass self (___________________) - self- concept comes from our ability to take the role of the other. This allows us to see ourselves as they see us. So others act as a looking glass mirroring our actions. This leads to a___________________________________– we become as others see us. Our label becomes part of our self-concept. Career (_________________) – suggested our career is our membership of a group. Being part of this group can give us _____________ in the eyes of society. (Labelling) The reaction of society marginalises individuals This process that alters their self-perception and identity This process creates ______________ Those with power are able to label someone, and make others accept that label If the label is especially damaging, it can become a ____________________________ Symbolic Interactionism led to the development of important concepts such as: labelling, deviant career, subculture and self fulfilling prophecy. These have been employed to great effect in study of education, ____________________and health. Goffman’s Dramaturgical model Erving Goffman (1922 –1982), We actively ‘construct’ ourselves though manipulating other peoples____________________ of us. We are actors, with scripts and use props with the aim of giving a convincing performance.We seek to control the presentation of self – so give people a particular impression of us. To do this we must control the impression our performance gives. (________________). This approach suggests that there is a ____________ stage where we act out our roles and a __________stage where we can be ourselves. This also suggests we can play roles that we don’t really believe in - like a confidence trickster we can __________________ others views of us. (Goffman) The dramaturgical __________ is weak because at times we are actors and ______________ members. It established the need to go beyond statistical correlations and take into account the view of the actor. Ethnomethodologists believe it fails to explain how actors create meanings. Labelling Someone in authority labels an individual as different or deviant Master Status The labelled person is treated differently by others they interact with Internalisation of the label Individuals come to see themselves as different and associate with others who are seen as different and deviant Deviant Career The individual becomes more different or deviant Cooley – 1922Becker – 1963 Status Act‘label’self-fulfilling prophecydeviancedeviancemaster status Back audienceImpressions Impression management manipulate analogy front
  7. 7. Phenomenology Intro Detail Evaluation / Example / How it helps us understand society: The world only makes sense because we classify and file information into mental categories. We can only get knowledge through this process of categorising. (Husserl) Phenomenology is another branch of social action theory with a slightly different emphasis. It examines the social construction of particular phenomena and the results of this subjective way of seeing and talking about them (a discourse) on people’s attitudes and behaviour. Alfred Schutz(1899-1959) We share ____________________________with other members of society and these shared categories are called_____________________. These allow us to organise our experiences into a shared world of meaning. The meaning of an experience comes from its social context. This makes meanings ____________________________. Typifications allow us to ______________________and make sure we agree on the meanings of things, which makes it possible for us to cooperate and_______________. Without typifications social _______________ would be impossible. However society appears to be real and objective which leads us to adopt the ________________ that the social world is real. (Schutz) Berger and Luckmann argue that although life is socially constructed – once constructed it has a life of its own and becomes an external _____________that has an effect on us. E.g. religious ideas may start in consciousness but are embodied in religious organisations and structures and influence us through laws. Ethnomethodology Harold Garfinkel (1917–2011) Ethnomethodology, another type of social action approach, can certainly be described as micro sociology as it examines how people speak to each other and interact in everyday conversations and in relationships within their own homes. EM is different to interactionism as it is not interested in the effects of the meanings but in how the meanings were produced in the first place. Social order is created from the bottom up, order and meaning are something the members actively construct in everyday life using commonsense knowledge Meanings are potentially unclear – this is called ________________– nothing has a fixed meaning it all depends on the context. ________________is a threat to social order because with meanings unstable, communication can break down. However we have ________________which allows us to construct a sense of meaning and order which stop ________________from happening. Language is key to________________as it allows us to remove uncertainty and give clear meanings. (Garfinkel) Exampled with his ‘________________ experiments’ – (living as a lodger in their own home). Good in that it highlights how we actively construct order – and are not just puppets of the social system – so voluntaristic and choice. Craig argues that findings are trivial and commonsensical and so don’t add much to our understanding of society. What EM sees as a structure of norms – Functionalism calls ‘social facts’ and denies that society is merely a shared fiction – but actually is out there to be studies in its own right. Order communicateTypificationsstabilise meanings ‘natural attitude’ categories and conceptsreality unclear and unstable
  8. 8. • Assess the usefulness of micro sociology to our understanding of society. 33 marks Examiners advice: You should begin by explaining what is meant by ‘action’ theories, contrasting them with structural approaches. You need to use the appropriate terminology: determinism versus voluntarism, ‘top-down’ versus ‘bottom-up’, macro versus micro, objective versus subjective etc. You should refer to all four major theories; social action theory, Interactionism, phenomenology, and ethnomethodology. However, it is reasonable t focus on one – probably Interactionism, ensuring you deal with both labelling theory and Goffman. Refer to the differences between action approaches, especially in relation to how far they give some role to structural factors. A useful way to end is to briefly discuss Giddens’ structuration theory – does it bring action and structuralist approach together or is it a weak compromise.

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