Why analysis of an act must include an analysis from the point of view of the actor

The following text articulates the theoretical foundation of my analytical biases, namely, my bias toward analyzing human behavior (action), first and foremost, from the point of view of the human being (the actor), while also representing a succinct statement on why I find a qualitative sociological study of economics and politics to be empirically and methodologically essential.

From:
Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, chapter one, titled “The World Outside and the Pictures in Our Heads” pp 14-16:

“The only feeling that anyone can have about an event he does not experience is the feeling aroused by his mental image of that event. That is why until we know what others think they know, we cannot truly understand their acts….In all [events] we must note particularly one common factor. It is the insertion between man and his environment of a pseudo-environment. To that pseudo-environment his behavior is a response. But because it is behavior, the consequences, if they are acts, operate not in the pseudo-environment where the behavior is stimulated, but in the real environment where action eventuates….For certainly, at the level of social life, what is called the adjustment of man to his environment takes place through the medium of fictions.

“By fictions I do not mean lies. I mean a representation of the environment which is in lesser or greater degree made by man himself. The range of fiction extends from complete hallucination to the scientists’ perfectly self-conscious use of a schematic model, or his decision that for his particular problem accuracy beyond a certain number of decimals is not important….For the real environment is altogether too big, too complex, and too fleeting for direct acquaintance. We are not equipped to deal with so much subtlety, so much variety, so many permutations and combinations. And although we have to act in that environment, we have to reconstruct it on a simpler model before we can manage with it. To traverse the world men must have maps of the world….

The analyst of public opinion must begin then, by recognizing the triangular relationship between the scene of action, the human picture of that scene, and the human response to that picture working itself out upon the scene of action.”

Source: Lippmann, Walter. 1922. Public Opinion.

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This entry was posted in qualitative sociology of economics and politics, sociology, sociology of business, Symbolic data, theoretical drivel. Bookmark the permalink.

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