- meaning, meaningful actionIt would be difficult to imagine any sociological study which did not, implicitly or explicitly, look at how people think about the social world and social relationships-in other words at the meanings that the social has for individuals and groups. Indeed, some schools of thought argue that meaning is the only object for sociology , as against those which look for causal explanations by reference to, for example, social structures .The concept of meaningful action is most closely associated with Max Weber , who distinguishes it from behaviour; that is, from merely physical movement to which the actor does not attach a meaning (for example blinking). Meaningful social action, by contrast, is action directed towards others and to which we can attach a subjective meaning. In this sense, praying alone in a church is meaningful action, as is participating in a church service. Most later theorists accept that these distinctions cannot easily be maintained and take the view that attaching a meaning to something (‘mere behaviour’) is itself an action; and, moreover, a social action because it draws on a socially constructed and accepted language. See also action theory ; interpretation.
Dictionary of sociology. 2013.