Sociology frequently presumes interest-oriented action but deconstructs interests. Here, we argue for more inquiry into the social conditions under which interest-oriented action is generated. We analyze how interest-oriented action is understood in classical sociology, rational choice theory, social exchange theory, and cultural sociology. These perspectives vary in the extent to which interests are an explanatory principle, how interests are considered, and how emergent social formations are explained. However, they share an implicit recognition that the question of when interest-oriented action emerges needs more attention. Rather than naturalizing interest-oriented action, or investigating how interests are constructed, the most productive direction for future sociological research on interests is to specify better when action oriented to interests becomes normative.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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