Interpretivism (Theory) Evaluation Unit 4

Taken from class notes and a revision booklet created by my teacher.

  • Created by: Ray22
  • Created on: 23-05-13 15:12

Interpretivism (Theory) Evaluation Unit 4


  • They examine micro approaches that see the individual as having agency, not simply a recipient of external social forces
  • Enables us to see how social reality is constructed through meanings and negotiations


  • Verstehen (meaningful understanding) sociology assumes that all individuals engage in rational behaviour
  • This understanding leads them to believe that individuals understand the motivations behind their own actions
  • Symbolic Interpretivism ignores the impact of structural elements on individuals
  • Labeling assumes that social actors passively accept being labelled and tends to ignore resistance labels


Although there may seem like more limitations than strengths of the interpretivist approach, it is one of the few action theories. Finding out what individuals within society form that society is key to their study and their approach. In evaluation of this theory's impact on sociology today, you'll find that the bulk of their merit lies in studying how agencies are created within small societies and to see how they take over the roles of individuals over time. This is a valid approach as it is not as DETERMINISTIC as the main theories; it accepts the fact that although agencies control society, individuals still have to accept and appoint those agencies to power. Max Weber (interpretivist) asserts Verstehen as key to understanding the intricacies of the society we live in through a VOLUNTARISM methodology. Sally Raskof made the following observation on Everydaysociologyblog: "while marriage exists historically as an institution that organizes property and inheritance relationships and regulates sexual behavior, it has always also served the function of tying kinship networks together." . This is an example of how useful it is to look at what else results from one action or union in this case; it is a large social event bringing together old and new friends and two sets of relatives. This theory works best for understanding people however it can never offer the big picture because of how time consuming interpretivist or other action theories methods are and the difficulty in generalizing findings.


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