The Theory of Social Action: The correspondence of Alfred Schutz and Talcott Parsons

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Moscow, Gorky Park
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  • About the Book

At first sight it is not easily understandable why the subjective point of view should be preferred in the social sciences. Why address ourselves always to this mysterious and not too interesting tyrant of the social sciences, called the subjectivity of the actor? Why not honestly describe in honestly objective terms what really happens, and that means speaking our own language, the language of qualified and scientifically trained observers of the social world? And if it be objected that these terms are but artificial conventions created by our “will and pleasure” and that therefore we cannot utilize them for real insight into the meaning which social acts have for those who act, but only for our interpretation, we could answer that it is precisely this building up of a system of conventions and an honest description of the world which is and is alone the task of scientific thought; that we scientists are no less sovereign in our system of interpretation than the actor is free in setting up his system of goals and plans; that we social scientists in particular have but to follow the pattern of natural sciences, which have performed with the very methods we should abandon the most wonderful work of all time; and, finally, that it is the essence of science to be objective, valid not only for me, or for me and you and a few others, but for everyone, and that scientific propositions do not refer to my private world but to the one and unitary life-world common to us all.

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