Assess the usefulness of social action theories in the study of society

Assess the usefulness of social action theories in the study of society (33 marks)

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Assess the usefulness of social action theories in the study of society (33 marks)
Social action theories are known as micro theories which take a bottom-up
approach to studying society; they look at how individuals within society interact
with each other. There are many forms of social action theories, the main ones
being symbolic interactionism, phenomenology and ethnomethodology. They are
all based on the work of Max Weber, a sociologist, who acknowledged that
structural factors can shape our behaviour but individuals do have reasons for
their actions. He used this to explain why people behave in the way in which they
do within society. Weber saw four types of actions which are commonly
committed within society; rational, this includes logical plans which are used to
achieve goals, traditional-customary behaviour, this is behaviour which is
traditional and has always been done; he also saw affectual actions, this includes
an emotion associated with an action and value-rational actions, this is behaviour
which is seen as logical by an individual. Weber's discovery of these actions can
therefore be seen as useful in the study of society. Weber discovered these
actions by using his concept of verstehan, a deeper understanding. However,
some sociologists have criticised him as they argue that verstehan cannot be
accomplished as it is not possible to see thing in the way that others see them,
leaving sociologists to question whether Weber's social action theory is useful in
the study of society.
Social action theories have also been referred to as interactionism as they aim to
explain day-to-day interactions between individuals within society. G.H Mead
came up with the idea of interactionism and argued that the self is `a social
construction arising out of social experience'. This is because, according to Mead,
social situations are what influence the way in we act and behave. He claims that
we develop a sense of self as a child and this allows us to see ourselves in the way
in which other people see us; we act and behave in certain ways depending on
the circumstances which we are in. Mead also claimed that we have a number of
different selves which we turn into when we are in certain situations; i.e. we may
have one self for the work place and another self for home life. Mead concluded
that society is like a stage, in which we are all `actors'. Mead's theory if
interactionism is useful in the study of society as it explains why people behave in
different ways in certain situations.
Mead argues that the social context of a situation is what influences our
behaviour, humans use symbols, in the form of language and facial expressions, to
communicate, he also argued that humans and animals differ as reasons behind
humans' actions are thought through and not instinctive, unlike those of animals'.
However, it has been argued that not all action is meaningful, as Weber's
category of traditional action suggests that much action is performed
unconsciously and may have little meaning. Therefore, mead's idea of
interactionism cannot be seen as an appropriate theory to use when studying
Blumer, a sociologist, who elaborated on Mead's concept of the self ­ `I' and `me' ­
stated that there were three principles about actions and behaviours within
social situations. He argued that our actions are the result of situations and

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The reasons behind our actions are negotiable
and changeable, so they're not fixed. Our interpretation of a situation is what
gives it meaning. Blumer's three principles can therefore be used in the study of
society. However, it has been argued that his principles cannot explain the
consistent patterns which we see in people's behaviours. This therefore leaves
many sociologists to question whether Blumer's principles can be used to study
society.…read more


charlotte joel

thank u for this x


thanks so much 

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