Continual Permutations of Action (Communication and Social Order)

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9780202304717: Continual Permutations of Action (Communication and Social Order)

Although it has not been his intention to promulgate theory for its own sake, Anselm Strauss has proven himself a formidable theorist. What has prompted this new treatise on human action (or as Strauss would prefer, acting) was a dissatisfaction with the accounts of social phenomena in the received, mainline sociological literature. Derived from the survey and functionalist traditions, such accounts have simplified complexities drastically, and mostly left implicit the underlying action assumptions of their research. Rejecting Parsons and Lazarsfeld as models, Strauss traces the perspective on human action presented in Continual Permutations of Action to a very different tradition, that of the Pragmatists.
Strauss's account begins with the concept of trajectory, referring to a course of action but also embracing the interaction of multiple actors and contingencies. Certain Straussian terms and motifs come rapidly into play in the earlier sections, where he maps out his account: conditional matrix, temporality, and the like. The later sections are given over to major topics, including work and its relations with other forms of action; the body; thought processes; symbolizing; social worlds and arenas; representation; the interplay of routine and creative action; and the relevance of the concept of social worlds to understanding the interplay of several levels of social order in contemporary society.
Extending the limits of interactionist theory, Strauss has raised questions about interpreting social phenomena that will be debated for some time to come.

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About the Author:

Anselm Strauss (1916-1996) was an American medical sociologist and professor at the University of Chicago. He was elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1980.

Review:

“Outstanding Title!... Strauss expands the pragmatist/interactionist orientation to social behavior of John Dewey, George H. Mead, and Herbert Blumer into a full-blown theory of action. In its theoretic fruitfulness, its descriptive sophistication, and in its "respect [for] the empirical world" Strauss's effort renders previous attempts at such formulations (notably Parsons's) redundant. Strauss begins by suggesting some 19 assumptions of an effective action theory that, among other things, can minimize the danger of sociologists "becoming captive to overly simple explanatory models or doctrines [claiming to explain] human life and behavior." His fundamental idea of trajectory and related subconcepts--notably matrix and path analysis of conditions relative to orders of behavior and the arenas in which such behavior is performed--are elaborated into a treatment of the complex interplay between symbolic worlds, social orders, and structures shaped by and through those symbolic sets. The role of the body, of emotions, and of motives within this action theory are set forth as aspects of and conditions for action. This book must be regarded as a magisterial analysis, sociology at its finest. All levels.”

L. Braude, Choice

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Published by Routledge (1993)
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Anselm L. Strauss
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