Social Action Theory/Interactionism

  • Created by: Chloe
  • Created on: 18-03-15 18:44
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  • Symbolic Interactionism
    • Summary: Human behaviour depends on how we interpret it.
    • Weber
      • An adequate sociological explanation requires two  levels:
        • The Level of Cause: the objective factors that shape behaviour, e.g. a belief system
        • The Level of Meaning: The subjective meanings that people attach to their actions
      • There are an infinite number of subjective meanings, so he classified them into 4 categories
        • Instrumentally- Rational Action: The actor calculates them most efficient means of achieving a given goal, e.g. profit
        • Value-Rational Action: Actions towards a goal that the actor regards as being desirable
        • Traditional Action: Involves routine, habitual actions, 'you've always done it'
        • Affectual Action: Expresses an emotion
      • Schutz: He is too individualistic and cannot explain the shared nature of meanings.
      • His ideas are very difficult to apply - what is one actions fits into more than one category?
    • Becker: Labelling Theory
      • Looked at three different concepts that explained labelling theory:
        • 1) The definition of the situation: Definition = label. Thomas (1966) said that if we believe something to be true it will effect how we act towards it - this creates consequence
        • 2) The Looking Glass Self: Cooley (1922) used this idea to describe how we develop our self-concept. By taking on the role of others we can see ourselves as others see us. This can help create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
        • 3) Career: stages of a person's occupational progress. Becker & Lemert extended this concept to groups such as medical patients who may find it hard to reintegrate into society
      • Although it emphasises free will, it has been accused of determinism - are people really shaped by their labels and master status?
    • G.H.Mead
      • Our behaviour is not shaped by fixed programming and instincts. Instead, we respond to the world by giving meanings to the things significant to us
      • We create a world of meanings by attaching symbols to the world.
      • Before responding to a symbol, we must first interpret it. Only then can we choose an appropriate response.
      • To interpret other meanings, we must take the role of the other - put yourself in their place. The ability to do this develops through social interaction
      • Blumer's Critiscism
        • He identified 3 key principles:
          • 1)Our actions are based on the meanings we give to situations, events, people etc
          • 2) These meanings arise from the interaction process. They are negotiable and changeable
          • 3) The meanings we give to situations are the result of interpretive procedures we use
        • He argued that our actions are not fixed and predictable
    • Goffman - Dramaturgical
      • We construct our 'self' by manipulating other's views of us. It is dramaturgical because he used analogies with drama.
      • We are all actors presenting to our 'audiences'. We want to be convincing in our role.
      • Two key concepts of dramaturgical acting are: 1) The presentation of self and 2) Impression Management
        • In order to present a particular image we must control the impression of our performance - We must constantly study our audience.
          • It focuses on face-to-face interactions and ignores wider social structures, e.g. class inequality.
      • There is a gap or 'role distance' between our real self and our roles. Roles are only loosely scripted by society so we have freedom in how we play our roles.
        • It is more a loose collection of descriptive concepts than an explanatory theory
      • Reynolds: They lack any idea of structure, and favour 'roles, self and interactions' over ideas such as 'power and class' (Questionnaire)
    • Phenomenology
      • 'Phenomenon' is used to describe things as they appear to our senses. We place the world into mental categories.
        • Husserl: Categories are shared and agreed. We place all of our sense experiences into categories.
        • Schutz: The categories and concepts that we use are shared and these shared categories are called typifications.
          • Typifications enable us to organise our experiences, and the meaning of any experience depends on its social contect
          • Meanings are potentially unclear and unstable, especially if others classify it in a different way
          • Fortunately, typifications stable and clarify meanings by ensuring that we are all 'speaking the same language'.
          • It is possible for us to communicate and cooperate with each other and thus achieve our . Without typifications, social order would be impossible.
        • To an extent, we do have a shared 'life world' - a stock of shared typifications or common sense knowledge. This knowledge is not about the world - it is the world.
      • Berger & Luckmann: They reject Schutz's view that reality is an inter-subjective reality. Once reality has been constructed it becomes an external reality.
    • Garfinkel: Ethnomethodology
      • Social order is made from the bottom up. Social order is an accomplishment, something that members of society construct in everyday life.
      • EM is interested in methods or rules that we use to produce the meanings, e.g. labelling.
      • Indexicality: Meanings are always potentially unclear. Nothing has a fixed meaning, it all depends on the context. This is a threat to social order because communication breaks down.
        • Reflexivity: The fact that we use common sense knowledge in everyday interactions to construct a sense of meaning. Language is vital in achieving this, for when we describe something we are also creating it.
      • Reflexivity: The fact that we use common sense knowledge in everyday interactions to construct a sense of meaning. Language is vital in achieving this, for when we describe something we are also creating it.
      • He sought to demonstrate the nature of social order through 'breach experiments' which aim to disrupt people's sense of order and undermine their assumptions
        • By challenging people's assumptions, they could see how the orderliness of everyday situations is an accomplishment of those who take part. Social order is 'participant produced'.
        • Humans strive to impose order by seeking patterns (even though they are just social constructs). The assumed pattern becomes reinforced but it tells us nothing about external reality.
          • Craib: It's findings are trivial and unsurprising.
          • EM denies the existence of wider society, seeing it as shared fiction
          • Ignores how wider structures of power and inequality affect the meanings that individuals construct.


Jerome Enriquez


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