SOCB43 Jan 14
What is Sociology?
Science of human action. Comprehensive science of social action. To
understand the logic society, start with simplest thing i.e. human being doing things..
Why they are doing this, what are their motivations, values interests goals. What
matters to them hen they act: to achieve power, save their souls. Or seek out truth.
Social action it becomes when they are doing it with other people.
Social structure and institution rather than motivations?
Why are people in church on Sunday, what do they get out of it, why is it important.
On work> what does their mean to them, why is it important to them. What are they
getting out of it?
Sometimes, people just do things without reason or motivation, which is not a topic
of sociology though according to weber.
How can one study this systematically?
Theory of action: theory that tells us the main types of actions, motivations that
move people to do things. Major types of actions are:
1) Purposeful Rationality
Attempt to understand, what the ppl in the situation are doing. ex.
Seeing one person punch another, u ask an explanation of why he did it and u want
it to make sense. Goal oriented answer: the guy needed a sandwich (the goal) the
means to that goal is $10, which the other person had so he punched it. This is not a
good means to achieve the goal though, could get in trouble. Adjust your behaviour
to the calculation (best means to get your goal) you make to achieve your goal.
2) Value oriented rationality
From the same example. Don’t care about the consequences
because you are defending your honor.. Much less concern with outcomes or
consequence u do it because the value is important. (the guy wants to defend his
3) Affective rationality (emotionally driven action, action that doesn’t have a
reason, value to It. just acting out on your feelings)
Do something, because that's always what you’ve done. Habit of doing
Why spend time classifying action in this way?
1) It allows us to make systematic distinctions:
-Compare and contrast different social groups, institutions etc.
2) Look at historical development -Study how one type of action didn’t exist at one point then ppl started
to act differently over time. Shift from traditional oriented action to purposeful
Contrasting social science to natural science
1) Positivists/nomothetic: science means trying to explain things according
to a general law. The idea is: science of society we need to find the laws of human
social relationships. ex. Determine basic cause of a revolution> theory: certain
amount of inequality etc. then there will be a revolution. [If a then b model]
2) Historicists/ideographic: impossible to make any legitimate
generalizations to what humans do because humans are not like the things natural
science study. We are free; we don’t have to respond to a situation in a determinate
way. Every situation we face is unique.
Respect the things you are studying,
Sociologists go deeper because the thing we study i.e. people are deep.
3) *Versteien-Interpretative: weber developed this. Means: start by
interpreting the action of the ppl involved> i) empathically get yourself into the
mindset of the ppl u are studying even if its different that what u believe in order to
get interpretation of why they do the action, what motivates them. See the word
trough their eyes. This is called direct interpretation. ii) Use that in making
explanations. Explain why ppl do hat they do what motivates them to act. u do that
by making generalized statements. Why do ppl pursue profit in a systematically
way. Why don’t they stop when they have enough? Weber answers: ppl initially
became motivated to pursue profit in this way because doing that supports ethical
or moral view of life, where u prove your goodness in life by constantly showing
your good work ethic. We now need to put all this together to have a tool and get on
with the work of social science> which weber calls the ideal type