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Assess the Contribution of Social Action Theories to Our Understanding of Society Today?

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Assess the contribution of Social Action Theories to our understanding of society today?
There are some many structural theories put across in today’s society which can be interpreted in many different levels. Structural theories such as Functionalism and Marxism have more of a positivist approach to how they see societies values as they are macro level which means they view society as a real physical thing out there which initially shapes our ideas and behaviour, and they also put the meaning across how to understand people’s behaviour we must first properly understand the social structure that shapes it to what it is today.
Moreover, unlike structural theories which are put across, action theories also bring to the understanding as they are micro level which can be seen as a voluntaristic approach which focuses on the actions and sometimes interactions of individuals as having free will and personal choice. Weber also argues the point how our actions are not determined by society as structural theories specify how we possess agency and so therefore we can shape society through our choices, meanings and actions put forward.
Overall the main critical four actions theories which evaluate our understanding in terms of society today, is Weber’s social action, ethnomethodology, phenomenology and symbolic interactionism. However all these actions specifically differ in how far they see structural explanations of behavior in the everyday surroundings.
Firstly, the main famous action put across was by Weber. He specifically saw both structural and action approaches as important to understand human behavior, he defined these using different levels. The first level he issued out was the ‘level of cause’ which explains the main objectives of structural factors which shape our behaviour in society. The second level was ‘level of meaning’ which initially is the subjective meanings that individuals attach in their actions. For example in Weber’s study of the Rise of Capitalism the protestant reformation introduced a new belief system which was known as ‘Calvinism’ which initially changed peoples view in society which eventually led to a change in behaviour. However when looking at the level of meaning, it had a religious meaning for the Calvinists as by calling God it lead to the accumulation of wealth. When presenting his study, Weber classified the action into four types based on the meaning for the actor which included – Instrumentally rational action: whereby the actor personally distinguishes the best ways of achieving a goal e.g. Capitalist may calculate that the best way to become profitable is to pay low wages. Value-rational action: this was an action put across towards achieving that goal that the actor may regard as desirable for his own benefit e.g. worshipping God in order to get into heaven. Traditional action: which was behaving in a traditional manner and involves habitual actions. Lastly Affectual action: which meant expressing emotion such as crying out of grief of stress.
However Weber’s judgmental actions put across has been criticised on several different levels. Schutz personally argues that Weber’s view of action is too individualistic. For example when an individual at an auction raises their hand or card, it means that they want to make a bid. But Weber personally does not explain how another person who does the same sort of action can have the same meaning he does not justify his point, as e.g. I may raise my hand which means I want to talk such as in a classroom. Other sociologists have also put across that Weber’s use of ‘vestehen’ but again have not explained how we can be the other person to elaborate, as we can never truly explain and understand another person’s specific motives as an individual.
In addition, the explanation which is backed up by the GH Mead evaluates how not only symbolic interactions occur when interacting with other people in society and their personal actions, but it is other important symbols each individual should clarify. For example the aspect of ‘Looking Glass Self’ which is mainly put forward by the theorist Charles Cooley which outlines how an individual gets their aspirations by looking at their self concept which allows them to stable themselves within societies means and conduct. Furthermore the other theory which is within the whole concept of the Chicago school policies was the ‘labelling theory’ this can be seen by many theorists as the factor which triggered many people’s barriers i.e. skills to further develop themselves. As for example when a teacher labels a student as ‘dumb’ this label will initially make them fulfil the teachers prophecy making them loss the self-esteem needed to gain success and achieve within education, however this theory as also becoming a debating issue which many sociologists argue for example Max Weber which outlines how some people do achieve although they have been placed in a low-ranking. However, he mainly clarifies how the labelling theory mainly helps the ruling class rather than the working class. As studies have shown that teachers are mainly considered to be helping the middle class children as they in the teachers eyes are nurtured into succeeding as they have the right equipment and resources needed to succeed in education whereas the working class children lack the right resources needed helping them to develop and contrast within education life while at school.
In addition, the Chicago School which also puts forward the factor ‘Career’ also affects an individuals surroundings of social action theories within society. As the concept but forward by GH Mead also again highlights how careers especially are divided into sub-categories which can even be manual work or non-manual work, however he clarifies how the working class especially are the ones who are ranked with the most money and value with the higher professional occupations compared to the…...

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