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unanticipated or unintended consequences (of social action)

any consequences of social action which are unintended and unforeseen by social participants. That social actions have consequences which are unforeseen by SOCIAL ACTORS is a major part of the drive to undertake sociological analysis. The same impetus was often uppermost in many forms of social thought prior to modern sociology, for example, Adam SMITH's ‘invisible hand’ of market forces, an idea taken and transformed by MARX (see also APPEARANCE AND REALITY).

An important discussion of unanticipated consequences is Robert MERTON's discussion of MANIFEST AND LATENT FUNCTIONS, and SELF-FULFILLING AND SELF-DESTROYING PROPHECY. Within Marxism and modern STRUCTURALISM the analysis of underlying realities is central. It is also present as a main objective in many other forms of sociology, including Weberian sociology (e.g. Protestants did not intend to establish modern capitalism, but according to Weber, this is one outcome of their religious orientation – see PROTESTANT ETHIC).

Among the reasons why social participants do not always intend or comprehend the implications of their own actions are:

  1. layers of unconscious and subconscious mind beneath conscious intentions, including various modes of tacit knowledge and human social competence;
  2. long chains of interdependence in and between modern societies which no one is in a position to view, still less to anticipate, in their entirety;
  3. the operation of ideological distortions, cultural HEGEMONY, etc, which hide an accurate view of social relations from some or all social participants.
References in periodicals archive ?
The unintended consequences are well known to both individuals and business owners who need to cover the higher premiums and the higher deductibles.
Unintended consequences aren't as survivable as they've been in the past.
Whilst this was dreadful for anyone directly affected, the unintended consequence for those workers who remained became known as 'survivor syndrome'.
What we learned about the negative and unintended consequences produced by this model should provide a cautionary warning to districts that might find such a model appealing.
One of the most fascinating examples of the Law of Unintended Consequences is what occurred after the reform of bankruptcy laws in 2005.
The authors also have an agenda that is only implicit in their arguments about unintended consequences.
Another example of unintended consequences is truly frightening.
Setting aside the political and social agenda, Unintended Consequences is a must-read for senior leadership and policymakers.
Overall, risk management, financial or otherwise, carried out in isolation has the potential to spawn unwanted, unintended consequences that are far easier to detect retrospectively.
The rationale for both studies was based on three assumptions: (1) State and local district graduation requirements for students with and without disabilities continue to evolve, and there is a need to follow these policy trends and examine their impact on youth with disabilities; (2) State and local districts are also evolving a range of differentiated diploma options for students with and without disabilities, and these options need to be examined to assess their potential impact on youth with disabilities; and (3) As state and local districts proceed in implementing these policies and procedures, additional information is critically needed to examine both their intended and unintended consequences for youth with disabilities.
Merton popularized the Law of Unintended Consequences, which teaches that almost all human actions lead to a result nobody saw coming.
In her presentation, Delage highlighted current reimbursement methods in place, some of the more common challenges faced, as well as notable unintended consequences.