Understanding the Rise of the Environmental Movement Through the Use of Max Weber’s 4 Types of ‘Social Action’

Topics: Sociology, Instrumental action, Normal type Pages: 4 (1235 words) Published: November 28, 2012
Understanding the rise of the Environmental Movement

through the use of Max Weber’s 4 types of ‘Social Action’

Sociology 101 – Laura Meehan

Historically, while industrialization and production have flourished, there has been little concern regarding the environment’s well being. However, now more than ever, there has been a growing awareness and acceptance of environmentalism, as people begin to realize that the large-scale environmental destruction we have caused, cannot be mended or manipulated by technological fixes. This somewhat ‘new’ movement to enter into the political arena claims it is necessity that the foundations of modern industrial society have to be challenged and restructured, as well that we must transform our social actions in order for it to succeed. Through the use of Max Weber’s 4 types of ‘social action’, we are able to better understand and analyze the reasons for change, progress, and setbacks within the environmental movement.

To begin with, in sociology, ‘social action’ refers to “all human behavior when and in so far as the acting individual attaches a subjective meaning to it” (Anderson, Karen L. (2012), “Thinking About Sociology: A Critical Introduction” (p.155).) Additionally, as defined by Weber himself, social actions “[are] interpreting the meanings which men give to their actions and so understand the actions themselves.” (Matthews, Eric (1978), "Selections In Translation" (p.7).) Point in fact, there are four types of ‘social actions’: 1.Goal rational: social action motivated by specific goals, 2.Value rational: social action motivated by weighing goal and how it is achieved, 3. Affectual action: social action motivated by emotions, and 3. Traditional action: action motivated by a tradition or custom. Therefore with specific regards to the environmental movement, value rational and affectual actions are the most relevant social actions. Generally speaking, value rational is the absolute essence of this movement...
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