The theory of heroic defeats: A mixed motivation approach

Sociological Theory 13 (2):178-196 (1995)

The category of heroic action is important in both everyday life and the wider social context. This article argues that interest in the notion of heroic actions and heroic defeats also brings out an important set of sociological problems, such as disagreements on identity, norms, and rational choice explanations. Illustrations are provided from recent analyses of union militancy in Britain and Italy, and of the student movement in Beijing. Different versions of the critique of rational choice theory often take norm-guided action as a point of departure. Another version of this critique is represented by theories of new social movements and identity maintenance. The article suggests that rational choice theory is more useful than some of its opponents would have it; yet the general argument favors a mixed motivation approach. The discussion points out some of the strengths and limitations of different explanatory perspectives, and some of the links between them
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DOI 10.2307/202160
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