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Social action occurs when thought processes intervene between a stimulus, an actor, and their subsequent response. In other words, it is a process whereby an individual attaches a subjective meaning to his or her action. This is different from reactive behavior in that a simple reaction involves a response to a stimulus with no intervening thought. The concept of social action is of particular importance to sociology because many aspects of the field are built on the principle of understanding the subjective meanings that actors attach to actions and how they come to understand the actions of others (and themselves).

The sociology of Max Weber rested on his concept of social action. He stated that the goal of sociological analysis was “the interpretation of action in ...

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