Weber’s four social actions

There are many reasons that end up triggering the decisions of an individual. Weber defines the four types of ideal social actions that are traditional, affective, value rational and instrumental. There are certain things that can fall under all those ideal social actions, and there are some you may just categorize with one. In our class discussions we spoke about the many life-changing decisions some individuals took and how they specifically fit within all these categories, such as the topic regarding college. With traditional social action, it is used in the context to represent a decision based on something that has been done traditionally whether its in the family, or society as a whole. A simple example would be marriage; it’s a tradition in many families if not all for you to get married to someone. In my case, personally, I do not believe in marriage but if I were to tell my parents that or eventually not get married, I would be looked at as a bad example in the family for not doing things the “right way”. Affective actions are taken due to one’s emotions, to express personal feelings. For example, cheering after a victory is one way for affective action and or crying at a funeral.  Value-rational can be looked at as actions which are taken because it leads to a valued goal, but with no thought of its consequences and often without consideration of the appropriateness of the means chosen to achieve it. A good example of this may be attending church every Sunday because it’s time you are giving God for a place you want to guarantee yourself in heaven (I’m assuming this is why, I’m not an active church participant. Just an example!!! :) ). Instrumental-rational is a social action pursued after evaluating its consequences and consideration of the various means to achieve it. An example for this may be an actor trying to decide for ways he can potential end up making more money in the end, what decisions he has to make towards certain things. 

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One response to “Weber’s four social actions

  1. A better way to utilize Weber’s ideal types is to submit a single course of conduct to analysis (comparison with ideal types). For example, take a social action such as getting married and consider the different orientations people have toward it, the different motivational frameworks. So people get married for reasons of tradition but they also get married for affective, value-rational, and instrumental-rational reasons. Or consider the different kinds of motivations around going to church. You may go due to your commitment to God (value-rational action) or to try and guarantee your salvation — which seems more *instrumental-rational*. Each individual could have a combination of motivations for their actions. In everyday life, a given behavior is likely to have characteristics of different types of social action.

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