Webers Action Theory

1. “Action oriented by expectations of the behavior of both objects and other individuals in the surrounding milieu.” 1

The individual looks for some behavior that directly meets his goals, or for the object or individual to help to meet a goal, based on expectations about the way that the object or individual will behave.

As example: A person walks into one restaurant and expects to be greeted and escorted to a table. The person waits patiently for someone to approach.

The same person walks into another restaurant and, without looking around, immediately walks to the back of the restaurant and waits to be served.

The first restaurant (object) is a fine dining restaurant (milieu), where there will be an employee to escort (expected behavior) the diner to a table.

The second restaurant (object) is a famous fast food chain restaurant (milieu), where the employees are behind a counter (object), waiting to ask (behavior) the person what he or she would like to order.

2. “Action oriented to some absolute value as embodied in some ethical, aesthetic, or perhaps religious code.” 2

A banker hands a homeless person a ticket instead of money when walking into work in the morning.

The same banker hands a well dressed woman who just had her purse snatched a $100 bill in the afternoon.

The banker knows that the homeless person will use money to buy alcohol or drugs, and he will not support a drug and alcohol habit. (absolute value) The ticket will get the homeless person a meal. (ethics, perhaps religious)

The banker knows that the well dressed woman (aesthetic) has no money to get home, because he just witnessed her purse, with her money and identification being stolen. (ethical, perhaps religious)

3. “Action guided by emotive response to or feelings about the surrounding milieu”. 3

A stodgy person who is never seen dancing with abandon, joins the others around him in standing up and doing an energetic dance (emotive response) at a Motown Review concert (milieu), after a show stopping signature tune kicks into full gear. Very few people who love Motown music can sit still when a good jam gets going. (feelings about the surrounding milieu.)

4. “Actions performed as part of long-standing societal tradition. 4

Fifty thousand people who would not sing a note to save their lives, join in to sing the National Anthem at the first ball game of the season. (part of a long-standing societal tradition)


William H. Swatos, Jr., “Weberian Action Theory”