Sociology Index


Interpretive theory is a general category of theory including symbolic interactionism, labeling, ethnomethodology, phenomenology and social constructionism. Interpretive theory is typically contrasted with structural theories which claim to remove the subjectivity of the actor and the researcher and assume that human behavior can best be understood as determined by the pushes and pulls of structural forces. Interpretive research is fundamentally concerned with meaning and it seeks to understand social members' definition of a situation - Schwandt. Interpretive theory involves building a second order theory or theory of members' theories - Alfred Schutz

Interpretive theory is more accepting of free will and sees human behavior as the outcome of the subjective interpretation of the environment. Structural theory focuses on the situation in which people act while interpretive theory focuses on the actor's definition of the situation in which they act. Interpretive theory seeks reciprocal inter-subjective understanding of subjects. Max Weber consolidated and developed a rich mass of interpretive theory of religion in his volumes on Judaism, Christianity, the Protestant Ethic, Confucianism, Hinduism and Islam.


The arrival of interpretivism in the scene, previously dominated by positivism and natural law theories about the nature of law, has stimulated a great deal of debate. - Stavropoulos, Nicos, "Interpretivist Theories of Law".

Early Modern Social Theory: Selected Interpretive Readings Book by Murray E G Smith - Collection of essays illuminates the course of development of modern social thought, from the Enlightenment to the 1920s. Essays focus on the most prominent social theroists, including Smith, Durkheim, Marx, Engels and Weber. Each essay describes the main contributions of the theorist as well as the political and economic context in which he worked.

Hermeneutics: An Introduction to Interpretive Theory by Stanley E. Porter and Jason C. Robinson (Nov 15, 2011)

The Judiciary Is a They, Not an It: Two Fallacies of Interpretive Theory 
ADRIAN VERMEULE, Harvard University - Harvard Law School 
In the language of economics and consequentialism, the interpretive theory has overlooked essential questions of the second-best. It is an irony of interpretive theory that so much emphasis has been given to exploring the consequences of the legislature's collective character no emphasis has been paid to the same problem in judicial institutions.

ROBERT GEPHART, University of Alberta
There are many interpretivist and constructionist genres. How this sensemaking produces features of the very settings to which sensemaking is responsive, the concern for reflexivity. Constructionists have also been particularly concerned with the interplay of subjective, objective and intersubjective knowledge. Intersubjectivity is the process of knowing others' minds and the question of intersubjectivity according to Schutz has been a longstanding challenge. Intersubjectivity occurs through language, social interaction, and written texts. A key form of interpretive research is social construction of reality which seeks to understand the social construction dialectic involving objective, intersubjective and subjective knowledge. This research investigates how the objective features of society likecorganizations, social classes, technology and scientific facts emerge from and are constituted by subjective meanings of individuals.

Researching Your Professional Pratice: Doing Interpretive Research (Doing Qualitative Analysis Research in Educational Settings)  Book by Hilary A. Radnor

The book is designed to demystify the interpretive/qualitative research process for educators doing a further degree at masters or doctoral level.

Toward an Interpretive Theory of Legal Ethics
Rakesh K. Anand, Syracuse University College of Law, Rutgers Law Review, Vol. 58, p. 653, 2006
Where's the law in legal ethics? The contemporary thinking about lawyer behavior tells us that there is nothing uniquely "legal" about a lawyer's professional responsibility.