Blog #5: Ideal Types of Social Actions in House of Sand and Fog

Weber defined sociology as a “science which attempts the interpretive understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a causal explanation of its course and effect.”  Social actions are shaped by society.  Different motivations guide an individual’s actions.  Weber’s ideal types provide social researchers the tool to description and explanation in research.  He created two non-rational and two rational types of social actions.  The first ideal type is traditional which is defined as “actions controlled by tradition or deeply rooted habits.”  This type of social action is better understood as “the way it has always been done” and is known to be non-rational actions.  In other words, people act on things based on what they have always recognized.   In the movie, House of Sand and Fog, Mr. B based his social actions on traditions.  He provided for his family the same way husbands have done for their wives in their birth country.  He worked two jobs to maintain the luxury that they were used to.

The second type of non-rational ideal type is Affective social action.   This type of action is identified as “actions determined by the actor’s specific affections and emotional state.”  In other words, individuals are guided by their emotions despite of its consequences.  For example, in the movie, the officer was guided by affective social actions.  He tried to keep Kathy by visiting the new homeowners with his uniform without acknowledging the consequences of losing his job.

The first type of rational social action is Value.  It is defined as “actions that are determined by a conscious belief in the inherent-ethnical esthetic, religious, etc. value of a type of behavior, regardless of its effects. In other words, individuals act upon what seems right to them and disregards the consequences.   For example, the officer acted on what he believed was the right thing to do.  He planted drugs on someone who was on parole because he believed that person was bad to his family.  The officer also took matters in his own hands when he visited Mr. B’s house in his uniform with the determination to remove the new homeowners.  He acted on his beliefs on what was right and wrong.  The officer viewed that Kathy was the rightfully owner.

The last ideal type is instrumental.  It is known as the second rational type and defined as “actions that are carried out to achieve a certain goal; the actor calculates which actions will lead in the best and most effect manner to the goal that’s been set.”   For example, in the movie, Mr. B. bought the house as an investment.  He wanted to make more money to provide the lifestyle of luxury for his family.


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