Social action theory on religion

  • Created by: parvos98
  • Created on: 26-03-15 19:20


This perspective is an interpretivist, micro approach to the study of society and in this case, religion. It was founded by MAX WEBER, who chose to study society by examining the individual as opposed to the super-structural organisations of society.

It is a "top-down" deterministic perspective which will study society and then create a theory surrounding their findings. This is in contrast to the major structural theories which do the reverse. Develop a hypothesis and set about proving it.

Giddens (1979) sees structure and action theories as two sides of the same coin, in that strucutres make social actin possible but social action creates the structures. He calls this the DUALITY OF STRUCTURE.


Weber finds that as we shape society, in certain times and place, religious meaning and purposes can direct action in a wide range of context. This theory is spearheaded by the belief that religion can and does inspire SOCIAL CHANGE.

He argues that (in some circumstances) religious beliefs, rather than acting as a CONSERVATIVE FORCE, can produce changes in society. His most famous work was called THE PROTESTANT ETHIC AND THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM. It made the claim that ASCETIC CALVINIST PROTESTANTISM encouraged and facilitated the development of capitalism.

Initially, he established a correlation between Calvinism and capitalism, going on to explain how the religion linked to the economy.


Calvinism derives from the influential teachings of John calvin in the seventeenth century. He believed in the DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION.-This means that, even before you are born, God knows if you are worthy of going to Heaven (or "downstairs")... When you die.

The problem was that there was no certain way of knowing whether or not you were among the ELECT (the predestined individuals who would go to heaven), as God was so above and beyond this world and so much greater than any mortal that no-one knew his mind.  Weber believed that this uncertainty (something which he termed as "SALVATION PANIC") made the Calvinists work very hard to try and acquire wealth and financial success  in order to convince themselves that they had been chosen for Heaven. Money (in their minds) was a concrete indication of success in ones's CALLING (seeing their work and business as a…


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