Assess the contribution of Social Action Theory to sociology

956 words 4 pages
Assess the contribution of Social Action Theory to sociology:

Social Action Theorists, or Interactionists are also known as micro sociologists, this is because instead of looking at the bigger picture in society, and how the large structures and institutions such as the education and judiciary systems affect individuals, which is what Marxists and Functionalists (macro sociologists) look at, Social Action Theorists look at the opposite, how us, individuals, act by our own accord, and how we make up society. This is known as a ‘bottom up’ view of society. They see people as having a much more active role in society, as opposed to the passive puppets that Structuralists make us out to be. They reject the view that our behaviour is the
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Another part of social action theory is the concept of labelling. This is when someone is put into a group, or stereotyped, because of the way they look or act. For example a young person may be labelled as a ‘goth’ because they have pale skin, black hair, and listen to a certain type of music. Becker came up with the idea of a Master Status. This means that an individual can have a status (normally negative) which overrides all other labels. For example, someone may be a very good brother and son, but then may be arrested for robbery, and then the label of ‘criminal’ will become his master status, and people won’t see the brother or the son they saw before, they will simply see him as a criminal.

It is believed that these labels lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. This means that someone will react to the label they have been given, and this label will become true. For example, if a teacher (very wrongly) labels a student as ‘dumb’ they may think they genuinely are dumb, and will not do well at school. However it has been argued that the opposite can occur, and people may go out of their way to disprove their label, to carry on with the example before, the ‘dumb’ student may try exceptionally hard at home and at school, to prove the teacher wrong, the label may act as motivation.

There are many criticisms of Social Action Theory, one being that they tend to be very vague when describing who is


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