209.5 Methodological issues with interpretative comprehension of social actions: Analyzing interaction with contemporary art objects

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 10:00 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Pavel STEPANTSOV , Sociology and Philosophy, The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Moscow, Russia
How do we as sociological observers comprehend from methodological point of view the meaning of what has been occurred? This question has been associated for a long time with understanding and grasping the motives and reasons of agent for her or his action. This is considered to be the preliminary point of interpretative method. Usually, theoretically and methodologically it is traced back up to the later works of Max Weber, especially to his introducing chapters of ‘Economy and Society’.

These presuppositions hold well if one does sociological work within common frames of everyday activities, e.g. interpreting day-to-day actions. Nevertheless one faces with considerable methodological problems if tries to provide a reasonable account of agent’s motives and reasons for the action in the situations breaking out of our typical experience of everyday life. I am going to refer to the issues concerning describing and explaining the flow of social actions through the sociological analysis of an example of such out of everyday frame activities. Under consideration is the case of people’s interaction with objects of contemporary art at the biggest Russian open-air festival ‘Archstoyanie’.

The detailed analysis of methodological issues intends to discover insufficiency of the interpretative approach outlined above. One can hardly provide any reasonable account of agent’s motives here and the meaning of social actions remains either incomprehensible or indistinguishable from other types of common social actions and therefore inadequate to this particular situation.

My claim may be stated in a following way. Comprehensive description and explanation of social action presupposes not hermeneutic grasping of motivational aspects of behavior, rather it must be associated with recognizable situational occurrences making this description an appropriate one. The latter includes assembling the whole picture out of pieces of social events and material settings as well.