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Critical Review On The Agency-Structure Relationship (Giddens) - Essay Example

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Critical Review On The Agency-Structure Relationship (Giddens)

All sociologists agree that a person cannot claim to be completely independent of the society around them though there have been contrasting views on how best to study an individual’s behaviour. In this respect, there is a central debate in sociology over the primacy of human behaviour; the options being structure or agency. Agency is the ability of individuals, who are the basic units of a society, to make decisions and act in accordance to those decisions. On the other hand, structure defines accepted routines in society that dictate how things should be done, effectively limiting the choices and opportunities available for an individual during decision-making. The structure against agency debate is an issue of socialisation against an autonomy where an individual choses either to act in such a way that promotes social ties, or in such a way as to fully express their individuality (Layder, 2005). Context Antony Giddens postulated the structuration theory as an alternative to other widely used theories of sociology that emphasised on agent and structure determinism. These theories include social system dichotomies like subjective-objective, agency-structure, and micro-macro perspectives that give the impression that society is made up of extremes, which are always going against each other to maintain balance. Structuration does not view society in terms of agency or structure but takes a more holistic approach, preferring to consider the practises that hold society together as opposed to society components that do the actions. This way, structuration aims at balancing society and the individual: a concept known as structural dualism, actions result in the social structure and social structure makes these actions possible. By so doing, Giddens proposed that structure and action are dependent on each other and none can exist alone (Baert and Carreira, 2010). The structuration theory has five basic assumptions that Giddens made when giving the postulates for his theory. First, the theory assumes that social activity is not a sum of individual actions and cannot be explained from a totality perspective either. The second assumption states that structure is a sum of all repetitive acts of individual agents. Third, Giddens assumed that social structures are temporary and can always be violated by any agent. The fourth assumption is that social structures are a limiting factor to the actions of individuals within the society. Finally, from all the other assumptions, the theory concludes that the result of the constraint between structure and action is positive evolution. These assumptions may not have been in Giddens mind when he proposed the theory of structuration. However, they do go well with his views and perspective on life, especially as regards the concept of structural dualism (Finlay and Gough, 2003). Discussion Giddens Position on Structure/ Agency Relationship The author stated that for there to be a structure, there must be an agency. Therefore, the idea of society and individual existing as separate entities is not conceivable. A society facilitates the very existence of an individual and natural laws show that a society cannot exist without the individual as explained by the expression duality of structure. The interdependence of the two variables formed the basis upon which Giddens based his theory. Giddens states that societal structures ...Show more
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