Meaning of ACT, THE

Meaning of ACT, THE:

The concept has been developed among others by Max Weber, Talcott Parsons, George Herbert Mead, Herbert Blumer and Alfred Schultz. Weber defined sociology as the interpretation of the subjective meanings people give to their actions. Behaviour devoid of meaning falls outside the purview of sociology. For Weber, the basic unit of sociology is the individual and his subjective action. Building on Weber’s theory of social action, Talcott Parsons explained the act as the key component of sociology. It comprises an actor, a situation, goals, and some normative standards. An actor is also called an analytical point of reference and could be an individual or a group. The situation, on the other hand, comprises of everything that is meaningfully organised in the actor’s orientation based on his various goals and in accordance with the normative standards. George Herbert Mead based his understanding of the act on the concept of symbolic interactionism. According to him, “an act is an impulse that maintains the life process by the selection of certain sorts of stimuli it needs. Thus, the organism creates its environment.” Mead limited the social act to those acts which involve cooperation of more than one individual. The act he said is built through three stages including “the impulse or the generalised disposition to the act, perception or the organising, selecting, or defining of a situation, and consummation or the completion of an act with the achieved goal.” While critically examining the concept of act, Alfred Shutz held that there is lack of clarity as to the meaning of the term actor. In one situation an actor may mean a dead ancestor while in another the actor may be a corporate. Further, what it meant by ascribing meaning to action is not clear.