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Action Perspective

  The action perspective is a general orientation to sociological analysis embraced by a number of branches of sociology: Weberian sociology, symbolic interactionism, and ethnomethodology.

Action is distinguished from behaviour by sociologists in that it involves meaning or intention—social activities make sense to those who participate in them. Proponents of this school of social thought believe social reality to be the product of the purposive, meaningful actions of societal members. The aims of sociological analysis, it is argued, should be to discover the meanings that those being studied give to their activities, and then to provide explanations for such social reality based on these meanings. A contrasting orientation to sociological analysis is positivism, which emphasizes the importance of social structure over individual action, and seeks to provide causal explanations of social reality which are located outside of individual societal members in the social structure. Meanings have no place in analysis for this school of thought.

All action theorists regard the first step in explanations of social life to be in terms of the meanings and purposes of those studied. There are differences, however, in the extent to which sociologists of this kind believe in the possibility of combining this with other types of combining this with other types of complementary explanatory forms that is by reference to the social structure. DA

See also exchange; functionalism; generalized other; idiographic; individualism; naturalism; phenomenological sociology; rational choice theory; social construction of reality; social fact; social order; social self; structuralism; structure-agency debate; understanding.Further reading P.S. Cohen, Modern Social Theory; , A. Dawe, Theories of social action, in , T.B. Bottomore and , R. Nisbet (eds.), A History of Sociological Analysis.



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