The Concept of Action, Paperback / softback Book


When people do things with words, how do we know what they are doing?

Many scholars have assumed a category of things called actions: 'requests', 'proposals', 'complaints', 'excuses'.

The idea is both convenient and intuitive, but as this book argues, it is a spurious concept of action.

In interaction, a person's primary task is to decide how to respond, not to label what someone just did.

The labeling of actions is a meta-level process, appropriate only when we wish to draw attention to others' behaviors in order to quiz, sanction, praise, blame, or otherwise hold them to account.

This book develops a new account of action grounded in certain fundamental ideas about the nature of human sociality: that social conduct is naturally interpreted as purposeful; that human behavior is shaped under a tyranny of social accountability; and that language is our central resource for social action and reaction.


  • Format: Paperback / softback
  • Pages: 242 pages, 14 b/w illus. 1 table
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Anthropology
  • ISBN: 9780521719650



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