(noun) A behavior by an individual during an interaction to which the individual attaches meaning based on others interpretations or responses to the act.
Example: Covering you mouth when you cough in public (as to not be rude) or dressing in a suit for a job interview (to impress and meet the expectation of the situation).
Audio Pronunciation: (so·cial ac·tion)
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- Plural: social actions
- An action differs from behavior in that social action requires intention. Behavior in the simplest terms is everything a person does, a social action is a behavior based on intentional reaction to their surroundings and expectations based on attitudes, beliefs, norms, and values.
- Behavior is what you do when no one is looking and a social action is what you do when you have an audience.
- The study of social actions is action theory.
- Max Weber developed a typology of four ideal types of social action:
- affectual action (also called affectional action, affective action, or emotional action) – An action determined by emotion such as crying at a movie or clapping to show approval and appreciation.
- zweckrational (roughly translated from German as “technocratic thinking,” also called goal-instrumental action, goal-oriented action, or instrumental action) – An action determined by the most rational and pragmatic solution to a problem such as the proper bridge to build over a river based on available materials and the environment or an investment banker choosing which stock to buy.
- traditional action – An action determined by custom or habit such as celebrating a holiday or combing your hair.
- wertrational (also called value-rational action, value rationality, or value-oriented action) – An action determined by a moral imperative but pursued through rational means such the following the teachings of a religion to achieve salvation.
- Also called:
- meaningful action
- meaningful social action
- Word origin of “social” and “action” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Martin, John Levi. 2011. The Explanation of Social Action. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Mead, George Herbert. 1938. The Philosophy of the Act. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
- Miller, Seumas. 2001. Social Action: A Teleological Account. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
- Schütz, Alfred. 1967. The Phenomenology of the Social World.
- Weber, Max. 1968. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology. New York: Bedminster Press.
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How to Cite the Definition of Social Action
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “social action.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved March 24, 2019 (http://sociologydictionary.org/social-action/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
social action. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from http://sociologydictionary.org/social-action/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “social action.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed March 24, 2019. http://sociologydictionary.org/social-action/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“social action.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 24 Mar. 2019. <http://sociologydictionary.org/social-action/>.