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Non-structuralist theories- social action theory/ labelling theory/
Ethnomethodology/ Weberism/ methodological individualism…read more

Slide 2

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· Social action theory is anti-positivist as it argues that
people are not puppets of society. Social action
theories tend to take an interpretivist approach in
that they focus on the individual, especially the
choices, interpretations & meanings that people
apply to the social situations in which they find
· Social action theorists or interactionist sociologists
reject the assumption held by functionalists &
Marxist sociologists that social behaviour is
constrained & made predictable by the organisation
of society. Social action theorists see people as having
a much more proactive role in shaping social life.…read more

Slide 3

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Social action theorists reject the idea that people's
behaviour is the product of external forces over
which they have little control. Brown argues that
people engage in voluntary behaviour. Most people
do not see themselves as puppets of society.
· Although people operate as individuals, they are
aware of other people around them. Social action
theorists argue that the attitudes & actions of others
influence the way people think & behave. Social
action theorists argue that society is the product of
people interacting in social groups & trying to make
sense of each other's behaviour.…read more

Slide 4

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· Social action sociologists believe that society is a social
construction. People create meanings through social
interaction with others & society is the product of people
interacting with each other. This social interaction is
complex as it involves people interpreting what is going
on around them & applying meaning to particular social
situations & to the actions & motives of others. People
interpret what is going on around them by looking for
shared signs & symbols.
· Mead- we use symbols in our interaction that must be
interpreted by others. We must take the role of others &
see our own behaviour through their eyes. We learn to do
this as children by role play.
· Bulmer- developed mead's ideas. Established 3 principles
of human behaviour- actions are based on meaning,
meanings are not fixed but result from interaction, these
meanings are determined by how we interpret actions.
These theories are very different from the `top down'
approaches of structural sociologists & contribute useful
insights into behaviour than structural theories do not.…read more

Slide 5

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· Language- peoples share interpretation of symbols
results in the social construction of a particular word
in their minds
· Colours- members of society interpret colours with
particular ideas, things or people e.g. blue-boys, pink-
· Objects- some people may interpret objects in
different ways e.g. a chair could be a seat or a weapon
· Flags- people recognise the union jack as being
symbolic of the Britain. This may lead them to
associate it with other symbolic objects of the UK such
as the queen or big ben.
· Gestures, facial expressions & body language may
change according to culture.
· People's roles- people who fail to live up to the social
expectations of their role may be labelled deviant
· Social status is socially constructed…read more

Slide 6

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· Social action theory argues that social construction is
important as it reflects collectively held values & norms.
The dominant groups in society define what counts as
appropriate or inappropriate behaviour. These definitions
are often embodied in law & regulations such as school
rules. The result of these definitions is shared ideas about
`normal' or conformist behaviour & `abnormal' or deviant
behaviour which are used by members of society to judge
the behaviour of other members of society.
· Social action approaches do not see social construction as a
rigid unchangeable concept. They point out that social
construction can gradually change over time such as the
views on homosexuality over time
· Social action theory argues that individuals & groups may
actively engage in re-negotiating meanings &
interpretations. People's roles are often open to individual
interpretation & negotiation. Society agrees that a teacher
should help pupils to pass exams however social action
theorists acknowledge that different teachers take different
approaches such as being strict or not.…read more

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Great summary of the non structural approaches to society this is great for A2 students.

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