Boudon 2001: Theories of Social Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

For example, Tocqueville was able to explain 18th century European aristocrat behavior by looking at social consequences. Like Tocqueville, Marx believed that they could explain individual actions by looking at subconscious class interests. Frey has demonstrated that people will accept individually negative outcomes, if they have positive group benefits.

Nietzsche believed that, while conscious of class interests, individual actions and beliefs should be viewed from an individual perspective, since they are motivated by the positive consequences to the individual actor. In discussing his theory of bounded rationality, Simon seemed to combine elements from the different theorist, by showing how social actions include cognitive dimensions.

3. How does the author distinguish human actions from other forms of human behavior?

Again, the author does not make it clear how he feels human actions and other forms of human behavior are different. Instead, he explains how various theorists have attempted to differentiate human action from other forms of behavior. The author explains that, according to Weber, social action, including active and passive actions, is directed by the behavior of others, whether past, present or anticipated future actions. Human actions are rational, even if they appear irrational, because the actors believe that
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doing an action will provide a certain result. Even behavior that seems ritualistic can be described as human actions, because much of these behaviors are traditional actions, performed because they have traditionally led to certain outcomes.

Other theorists, like Nietzsche, do not adhere to such a rigid difference between action and other forms of behavior. Nietzsche theorized that beliefs developed in the same way as actions, and were the result of positive psychological rewards for certain thoughts. Weber disagreed. In addition, Durkheim does not differentiate between human actions and other behaviors the way many other theorists do. Durkheim sees no essential difference between scientific and ordinary knowledge, because the actions generated by the beliefs could be analyzed in the same way.

As a result, normative and axiological beliefs become crucial ingredients in social action. As a result, axiological rationality help explains personal beliefs about impersonal situations, such as how individuals view the death penalty. In fact, many psychologists agree that much of human behavior cannot be explained as mere stimulus-response behavior, but goal oriented actions, which breaks down the barrier between actions and other behavior. Their view is that "goal oriented real-life activity is opportunistically organized which means that people are trying to accomplish goals by a kind of muddling through with some…

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