Sociology – Max Weber’s Social Action

Max Weber – Social Action

Sociology Honours

Max Weber

Max Weber is a German thinker who excelled in the fields of Sociology, Political economy, Philosophy, and Law. He made path-breaking contribution to the subject of Sociology, and is, therefore, revered by students of Sociology around the world.

Sociology has been shaped by many eminent political thinkers like Karl Marx, and David Emile Durkheim. Marx based his theory on class struggle where the bourgeois was in constant conflict with the working class.

Durkheim approached the subject of Sociology from a different angle. His work was concerned with how societies can maintain their integrity and coherence in the era of modernity in which traditional social and religious ties have lost their relevance giving rise to the creation of new social institutions. Durkheim’s conception of the scientific study of society laid the groundwork for modern sociology.

Both Karl Marx and Durkheim dealt with Sociology in the Macro level.

Max Weber, a German social thinker gave a radically different meaning to Sociology by approaching it from a micro level. He studied three things related to an individual. These are
• behavior,
• action,
• social action

Behavior – The ways an individual handles his mobile phone, or takes bath are their behavior patterns. Behavior has minimal impact on society.

Action – Suppose your pet dog is sick. You will take every care in the most loving way to nurse it back to health. This is action that, too, does not have much impact on society.

Social action – Suppose you make a video of your sick pet dog, and the way you cared for it to restore its health and put the video in social media, many more will see it and be influenced by your sympathy for your pet. It will rekindle similar emotions of kindness and caring in their minds. This type of action meant to influence society is Social action.

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What are the elements of Social Action

• Actor – Some individual or a group can be ‘Actor’. The Actor performs the action. It can be an NGO, a philanthropists, or even an ordinary pet owner with a kind heart.

• Goal – There must be a goal. It can be distribution of free food for the hungry, starting an anti-dowry campaign, or even animal care.

• Situation – There must be a situation where such action can take place. For example, take the case of the hungry and tired refugees fleeing Ukraine, OR a society reeling from dowry-related violence against women, OR a neighborhood where animals are being treated cruelly. These are the fertile grounds for Social Action.

• Normative orientation – The actors must be mentally oriented towards the same goal. It may be giving succor to the refugees, or spreading awareness about the evils of dowry, or the value of compassion towards animals

• Energy – The Actors must have the energy and stamina to carry out their tasks.
What are the types of Social Action …

• Rationalistic approach – Before embarking on a certain Social Action, the actors must examine it rationally to see if it’s feasible and realistic.

• Evaluative Social Action – The ethical reasons behind the intended Social Action must be weighed carefully.

• Affective – When individuals or groups indulge in impulsive action without thinking if it is good or bad, the consideration can be termed as ‘Affective’. Vandalizing public property, beating up an accused or attacking people of other faiths are all impulsive actions that fall under this category.

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• Traditionalistic – It refers to actions we do because our forefathers did it. We offer animal sacrifices in temples, do thread ceremony of Brahmin boys, all because such practices have been followed for ages.

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