Theory of Social Action by Max Weber

Theory of Social Action is given by Max Weber in his book ‘Theory of Social and Economic Organization’. Weber was not only a sociologist but also an economist, jurist and a philosopher. His ideas influenced social theory, social research and the discipline of sociology itself. Along with Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx he is often known as the founding architect of sociology. According to Weber, we cannot understand social events and circumstances until their rational interpretation is not presented. That is why Max Weber is called the father of Interpretative Sociology.

He first developed a theory of social action in “Economy and Society” in 1911and 1920. He is concerned in developing a theory of society, consistent with making judgments about the decisions individuals make in their actions with others in a social environment.

Meaning of Social Action

According to Weber, any form of investigation which reduces human action to its simple external characteristics would be meaningless. Since it would not capture the tendency of  human Interpretative understanding. Human beings can only act in the world after interpreted the act of others to whom they are responding. “Social Action” can only occur when the acting individual attaches a subjective meaning to the act. And when the act takes account of the behaviour of others and is thereby oriented in its course. Hence it is clear, there are three key aspects for defining human action as social:

  • Meaning to the actor– presumably things that are understandable or are of concern to the social actor. Perhaps as the result of experience, values and interest.
  • Consider others– other social actors are necessarily involved, for an individual action to become a social action. Also they must explicitly be considered by the social actor whether positively, negatively or neutral.
  • Oriented– some direction or purpose in the action.

Theory of Social Action

Max Weber drafted the theory of social action in “Theory of Social and Economic Organization”. According to Weber, human are performing any time any action in reference of their need. He considered an important unit of actors in editing of social actions. When a  actor performs any type of work then it is action. For this it is necessary that it have vested the personal interest of actors at the time of action.  By which many persons are affected or get some sense.

Max Weber provides more importance to social action in the study of Sociology. The main work of sociology is the accurate research of sociological actions. So the effect of their action or result can present explanation with reason. According to Weber,  the action is social action only whenever that actions are affected by the behaviour of the other sociological creature. And decide its activity according to them.

The name of Max Weber is most important among sociologist in providing certain side of sociology. His main aim was rendering the principle of sociology. He generates the principle of social action for fulfilling these objectives . According to Weber “Sociology is that science which tries to perform the explanatory sense of sociological actions, so their side and result of causation relation can clarify”.

If we deliberate the above definition of sociology by Weber, then this describes different types of specialties.

  • Social Action
  • Interpretation of social action
  • Causal relationship of course and result of Social action

To clear the above interpretation Weber writes that action can be social action in which the actor change their actions to think about the others action. It is known as social action.


According to Weber, there are following characteristics of social action:

1. Every action is not a sociological action.  An activity is a social activity only where action is affected by other people of society. That effect can be of three types

  • Social action are affected by the actions of the past. In other words, the seed of today’s action is hidden in the past.
  • It could also being the result of today’s behaviour.
  • It has future based result. So people perform any action today, their effect can be seen in future life.

2. As said above, only that action is social action, which are affected from others. So in brief, other person is necessary for sociological action. In the reference of other people,  social action is transacting.

3. Social activities are inter-related.

In modern complex society to assume, the main base of social action tries to understand the incident and sociological life. Other than Weber, there are more scholars to represent the idea related to sociological action. According to plato,the action which performs on person, is the result of that society in which person self live.

Thereby society will generate those type of situation person will perform those type action. Society gives the knowledge of editing of Sociological action. He shows the idea that when there is any change in sociological situation.  The activity of human automatically changes.

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