The theory of action or Action Theory is a sociological perspective that focuses on the individual as a subject and sees social actions as deliberately designed in the context to which meaning is given. The theory of action is based on the assumption that: 1) the actor is able to act with a conscious goal; 2) the actor is able to control, influence or act with his body; 3) the individual actor is independent of other actors and the environment.
The origins of the theory of action can be traced back to the end of the 19th century. The first concepts were defined by Max Weber . They were later developed by sociologists Talcott Parsons, George Herbert Mead , Alfred Schutz and others. Developments took place in various directions - mainly in sociology , philosophy and psychology. As a result, two approaches emerged: rational and normative. One of the most outstanding contemporary authors is Hans Joas, who offers a third approach to the theory of action - its main emphasis is on the creativity of human activity. Joass emphasizes that the assumptions discussed above are not always observed in everyday life, and this is a fact that even the founders of the first concepts of the theory succumb to. Thus, he analyzes the problems of these assumptions, expressing them as follows - intention, corporeality, sociality.
First of all, it is intentionality - the actor does not always act, being aware of the purpose of the action and choosing the appropriate means to achieve it. Rather, they become concrete during the action, with the actor embracing the available resources. Consequently, Joass argues that the situation is important because it creates circumstances that require specific action by the actor. In turn, it is the actor's choice of how he will perform his actions, and it will be influenced by his values and beliefs. At this point, Joass sees us expressing our creativity.
Secondly, it is corporeality - in contrast to the rational theory of action, which views the actor's body as an instrument that is disciplined, Joass argues that there are circumstances in which control of the body simply disappears. For example, Passive intentionality, when the actor gradually loses consciousness until he falls asleep. Or a justified loss of consciousness (Meaningful loss of intentionality), when under the influence of the situation the actor loses control over his body and escapes uncontrollable laughter or tears.
Third, Joas reviews primary sociality. If the previous founders of the theory believed that the actor is individual and able to make decisions independently of the surrounding actors, then Joas argues that sociality is the reason for the actor's actions. We do not live on a lonely island, where the only processes that take place are those that I cause. In everyday life, we are faced with many different situations, actors who guide our actions, forcing us to give up something, set new goals or choose other means to achieve the intended one.