ideal types of social action

Weber concluded that his main theory includes that various reasoning goes behind any decision or action a person makes.  Four types of ideal social actions that can justify a certain decision, are traditional, affective, value rational. and instrumental.  In class, we discussed how marriage and attending college can all be looked at in different ways under these various types of thought processes.  Another major life decision that can be broken down within these categories is having children.  In the traditional context, one can look at it as something that everyone in their family has done.  No one in their family has decided to not have children, therefore he/she might as well join the pack.  Next, affective could be the moment when he/she sees a cute baby in a store and would all of a sudden love the idea of having one of their own.  According to value rational social action, one could agree to have a child simply because it is spoke about in their religion.  One must bear children in order to pass down their religious beliefs to the next generation.  Lastly, instrumental rational would be one day hoping he/she would create a picture perfect family.  White picket fence, children running around, simply living the American dream.  I agree with Weber that all of these explanations could be associated with any life decision one has to make.


3 responses to “ideal types of social action

  1. Nice post! I liked the example you gave about having children and relating it to Weber’s 4 types of social action. I think people now-a-days have children mostly because of the affective and instrumental rational types of social action. I don’t really think people just have children in modern days because of their religion or traditional values. After all, having a child can be costly, so there are many other reasons that come into play. What do you think?

  2. First off, I would also like to complement you on your post and applying Weber’s four types of ideal social actions to the concept of having children, and second, I agree with meganzar’s comment how there are “many other reasons that come into play” since “having a child can be costly.” I think her comment also raises the concern of how there are certain factors besides costly expenses that may threaten to destroy all four perspectives of raising children and having a perfect family. Three of these major factors could be related to abuse, alcoholism, and divorce, all of which can have a drastic effect on the children and the environment in which they are raised in.

  3. Great idea to apply Weber’s ideal types of social action to the case of having children. The only example I would question is the one of *instrumental-rational* action. Your suggestion that having children may be motivated by the cultural ideal of the “American dream” is persuasive, but I would classify this as *value-rational* action. A better example of instrumental-rational action would be if the decision is motivated by economic concerns. For example, in the past people had children to provide for economic security in their old age. Today, whether people have children may be equally shaped by instrumental-rational calculations — however, current trends tend in the other direction, against having children, which are more often viewed as an economic “cost” rather than as a source of economic security.

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