Coleman, Collins and Giddens on theory of action as the basis of general sociological theory

Coleman, Collins and Giddens on theory of action as the basis of general sociological theory

Šubrt I.

Dr. Sci. (Philos.), Assoc. Prof., Head of the Department of Historical Sociology, Faculty of Humanities, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

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Šubrt I. Coleman, Collins and Giddens on theory of action as the basis of general sociological theory. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2017. No 2. P. 14-23


The concept of action occupies a key position in the general sociological theory. According to many theorists – since M. Weber – it is a concept essential to clarifying social reality and social life as a whole. This article compares three approaches to the theory of action which emerged in the last quarter of the twentieth century: the concepts of J. Coleman, R. Collins and A. Giddens respectively. What these share is their accent on the importance of the microsociological perspective for understanding of what is happening on the macro-social level. Where they differ is in the acceptance or rejection of the assumed impact of rationality on human action. Coleman sees people as rational, decisive beings, focussing their actions on the basis of calculating costs and rewards. Collins by contrast stresses supra-rational factors of emotion and routine. Giddens approach is more complex; he explains human action in relation to three levels of consciousness: discursive consciousness, practical consciousness and the unconscious. He also distinguishes three aspects of interaction (communication of meaning, the use of power and moral relationships) with corresponding types of structural elements (interpretative rules, resources and normative rules).

sociological theory; social action; interaction; social reality; social structure; micro-level; macro-level; rationality; emotions; routine


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