Politics in Europe and Beyond Agency and Structure One of the things I think about a lot, though not with enough rigor, is the question of agency and structure.
Structuration is one prominent example of this view. The first approach emphasizing the importance of societal structure dominated in classical sociology.
Durkheim strongly believed that the collective had emergent properties of its own and saw the need for a science which would deal with this emergence.
The second approach methodological individualism, etc. Many theorists still follow this course economists, for example, tend to disregard any kind of holism.
The central debate, therefore, pits theorists committed to the notions of methodological holism against those committed to methodological individualism. The first notion, methodological holism, is the idea that actors are socialized and embedded into social structures and institutions that constrain, or enable, and generally shape the individuals' dispositions towards, and capacities for, action, and that this social structure should be taken as primary and most significant.
The second notion, methodological individualism, is the idea that actors are the central theoretical and ontological elements in social systems, and social structure is an epiphenomenona result and consequence of the actions and activities of interacting individuals.
Georg Simmel[ edit ] Georg Simmel — was one of the first generation of German nonpositivist sociologists. His studies pioneered the concepts of social structure and agency. Norbert Elias[ edit ] Norbert Elias — was a German sociologist whose work focused on the relationship between power, behaviour, emotion, and knowledge over time.
He significantly shaped what is called process sociology or figurational sociology. Talcott Parsons[ edit ] Talcott Parsons — was an American sociologist and the main theorist of action theory misleadingly called "structural functionalism" in sociology from the s in the United States.
His works analyze social structure but in terms of voluntary action and through patterns of normative institutionalization by codifying its theoretical gestalt into a system-theoretical framework based on the idea of living systems and cybernetic hierarchy.
For Parsons there is no structure—agency problem.
It is a pseudo-problem. His development of Max Weber's means-end action structure is summarized in Instrumental and value-rational action Pierre Bourdieu[ edit ] Pierre Bourdieu — was a French theorist who presented his theory of practice on the dichotomical understanding of the relation between agency and structure in a great number of publications, beginning with An Outline of the Theory of Practice inwhere he presented the concept of habitus.
A Social Critique of the Judgement of Tastewas named as one of the 20th century's 10 most important works of sociology by the International Sociological Association. The agent is socialized in a "field", an evolving set of roles and relationships in a social domain, where various forms of "capital" such as prestige or financial resources are at stake.
As the agent accommodates to his or her roles and relationships in the context of his or her position in the field, the agent internalizes relationships and expectations for operating in that domain.
These internalized relationships and habitual expectations and relationships form, over time, the habitus. Bourdieu's work attempts to reconcile structure and agency, as external structures are internalized into the habitus while the actions of the agent externalize interactions between actors into the social relationships in the field.
Bourdieu's theory, therefore, is a dialectic between "externalizing the internal", and "internalizing the external". Berger and Luckmann[ edit ] James Coleman[ edit ] The sociologist James Samuel Coleman famously diagramed the link between macrosociological phenomena and individual behaviour in what is commonly referred to as Coleman's Boat.
In this way, individual action is taken in reference to a macro-sociological structure, and that action by many individuals results in change to that macro-structure. Anthony Giddens[ edit ] Contemporary sociology has generally aimed toward a reconciliation of structure and agency as concepts.
Anthony Giddens has developed structuration theory in such works as The Constitution of Society The term reflexivity is used to refer to the ability of an agent to consciously alter his or her place in the social structure; thus globalization and the emergence of the 'post-traditional' society might be said to allow for "greater social reflexivity".
Social and political sciences are therefore important because social knowledge, as self-knowledge, is potentially emancipatory.
As he states in his "Model of Productive Processing of Reality PPR ", personality "does not form independently from society any of its functions or dimensions but is continuously being shaped, in a concrete, historically conveyed life world, throughout the entire space of the life span".
The human being as an autonomous subject has the lifelong task to harmonize the processes of social integration and personal individualization. This task is mastered in specific steps that are typical for the respective age and the achieved developmental stage "developmental tasks".
The varieties of this resistance are negative capability. Unlike other theories of structure and agency, negative capability does not reduce the individual to a simple actor possessing only the dual capacity of compliance or rebellion, but rather sees him as able to partake in a variety of activities of self empowerment.
The TMSA has been further advocated and applied in other social science fields by additional authors, for example in economics by Tony Lawson and in sociology by Margaret Archer.
Inthe Journal of Management Studies debated the merits of critical realism. This indicates that neither participants, nor social practices can be understood when looked at in isolation in fact, this undermines the very idea of trying to do sosince practice and structure is co-created by participants and since the participants can only be called so, if they participate in a social practice.
Work in information systems by Mutch has emphasized Archer's Realist Social Theory  as well as Robert Archer's application in the field of education policy.The structure-agency debate is a debate that asks one “to what extent are we shaped by social structure and to what extent do we exercise agency to determine our own biography?”.
I am going to use this debate to understand the attitude and actions of Captain Louis De Koster as a police officer. To consider the relationship between structure and agency a dialectical one is to assert that while social structure shapes individuals, individuals (and groups) also shape social structure.
After all, society is a social creation -- the creation and maintenance of social order require the cooperation of individuals connected through social relationships. Individualist accounts like these, in denigrating the role of social structure, privilege instead the role of human agency in explaining social behaviour – the capabilities that humans have to act in their own right.
Yet agency too is a problematic concept. New ideas about structure and agency The social sciences have chosen up sides around a number of dichotomies -- quantitative versus qualitative research methods, .
May 24, · Another example of how agency exerts independent effects on the social system are the infamous “unintended consequences” that follow from social-system efforts- particularly when carried out by the modern State- to leverage or otherwise mobilize action by modifying the structures of opportunity.
Structure. In an organizational chart, there is usually at least one person at the top, such as you, if you're a business owner, or a manager. If you are the owner of an accounting agency, for example, you might have a layer of accountants below you, and below them might be a .