Action theories 1
Max Weber: social action theory
Saw structural and action approaches as necessary to describe social behaviour. An explanation must have two things:
1. Level of cause – explaining the objective structural factors that shape people’s behaviour. For the Calvinist thing, this would be the Protestant Reformation. 2. Level of meaning – understanding the subjective meanings that individuals attach to their actions. For the Calvinists, work took on a religious meaning.
Action theories 2
Types of action There are an infinite number of subjective meanings that actors may give to their actions. He classified actions into four types: 1. Instrumentally rational action – Actor calculates the most efficient way of achieving goals. A capitalist may calculate that the best way to achieve a profit is to pay low wages. 2.Value-rational action – Action towards a goal that the actor regards as desirable for it’s own sake. There is no way of calculating the means to get there. Being good to get into heaven is an example of this.
3. Traditional action – Routine or habitual actions. This isn’t a rational action as no thought or choice has gone into it. 4. Affectual action – Action that expresses an emotion. It is important for religious and political movements.
Action theories 3
Evaluation of Weber
Correcting Marx’s over-emphasis on structural factors.
Alfred Schutz argued that it is too individualistic and cannot explain the shared nature of meanings. Use the example of meaning.
Weber advocated the use of verstehen but we cannot always put ourselves in another person’s shoes.