Action and Unintended Consequences: Counterfinality as a Complex Sociological Problem

Action and Unintended Consequences:
Counterfinality as a Complex Sociological Problem

Latypov I.A.

PhD student, National Research University “Higher School of Economics”, Moscow, Russia

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For citation:

Latypov I.A. Action and Unintended Consequences: Counterfinality as a Complex Sociological Problem. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2022. No 5. P. 3-14


Counterfinality is the unintended consequences stemming from uncoordinated actions. It may be described as a complex theoretical problem, including understanding the motive for action, transition from individual goals to collective results, and unintended consequences. Understanding the motive for action is an initial challenge in the study of counterfinality. This understanding can be reached by having a stock of social knowledge and an understanding of typical situations and typical motives. However, attempt to describe a motive for action is only a hypothesis, and the actual course of events is the basis for understanding action. Therefore ethnographic observations come first in describing counterfinality. After that, it is important to trace transition from these actions to collective irrational consequences. Such a transition is possible because of the shortsightedness of individuals focused only on their private goals. In addition to these misperceptions, unintended collective consequences may have other conditions of occurrence: insufficient information, publicly voiced predictions etc. The presented sequence of counterfinality description from action to consequences is a theoretical reference point while a detailed description of all stages of counterfinality emergence is the task for an empirical study.

counterfinality; unintended consequences; action; rationality; motive; irrationality


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