Coleman on the classification of social action

Early in his theoretical treatise of rational-choice sociology Foundations of Social Theory, James Coleman introduces a diagram of different kinds of social action (34). This diagram is valuable because it provides a finely granulated classification of kinds of social action, differentiated by the relationships that each kind stipulates among individuals within the interaction. Here is …

The politics color wheel

                    The problem of mapping or classifying people's political attitudes is more complicated than it looks. Placing people on a spectrum from left to right is convenient but over-simple. It assumes that there is a single dimension of political difference, ranging from conservative to liberal, and …

Engaged youth

A while ago I posted on the subject of "disaffected youth". I don't have a basis for estimating the percentage of the youth population that falls in this category, but surely it's a fairly small number in most places. Here I want to focus on the other end of the spectrum -- the relatively small …

Subsistence ethic as a causal factor

In his pathbreaking 1976 book, The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia, James Scott offers an explanation of popular politics based on the idea of a broadly shared "subsistence ethic" among the underclass people of Vietnam and Malaysia. Earlier postings (hidden transcripts, moral economy) have discussed several aspects of Scott's …

Acting, deliberating, performing

Earlier posts have addressed aspects of action -- particularly the features that align action with purposiveness and choice, deliberation, planning, and improvisation. Here I'd like to focus on the idea of action as a performance -- a series of behaviors meaningfully orchestrated by the actor out of consideration of an expected "script". Here we interpret …

What is a norm?

The role of norms in social behavior is a key question for sociology. Is a norm a sociological reality? And do individuals behave in conformance to norms?We can offer mundane examples of social norms deriving from a wide range of social situations: norms of politeness, norms of fairness, norms of appropriate dress, norms of behavior …

Institutions, procedures, norms

One of the noteworthy aspects of the framing offered by Victor Nee and Mary Brinton of the assumptions of the new institutionalism is the very close connection they postulate between institutions and norms. (See the prior posting on this subject). So what is the connection between institutions and norms? The idea that an institution is …

The new institutionalism

The new institutionalism in sociology is a particularly promising prism through which to understand a lot of social behavior and change. Victor Nee and Paul Ingram define the approach in these terms in "Embeddedness and Beyond" in The New Institutionalism in Sociology: Specifying the mechanisms through which institutions shape the parameters of choice is important …

Norms and deliberative rationality

Why do people cooperate? That is, what motivates individuals to come together to share labor and resources in pursuit of a common good from which they cannot be excluded -- fighting fires, hunting marauding tigers, cleaning up a public beach? Standard rational choice theory, and its application to problems of individual rationality in group settings, …

Trust

What is the role of trust in ordinary social workings? I would say that a fairly high level of trust is simply mandatory in any social group, from a family to a workplace to a full society. Lacking trust, each agent is forced into a kind of Hobbesian calculation about the behavior of those around …

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