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Compare And Contrast Bourdieu's Approach To The Agency/Structure Dichotomy With That Of Giddens

2876 words - 12 pages

COMPARE AND CONTRAST BOURDIEU'S APPROACHTO THE AGENCY/STRUCTURE DICHOTOMYWITH THAT OF GIDDENSIn recent years, several authors have attempted to deal with the problem of the relationship between agency and social structure. This has manifested itself in the theory of structuration. Anthony Giddens' structuration theory is one of the best-known and most articulated efforts to integrate agency and structure. His theory proposes a duality of structure, in that agency and structure cannot be seen as independent of one another. Pierre Bourdieu is another important theorist to contribute to this agency-structure debate. His theory of habitus and field is concerned principally with overcoming the ...view middle of the document...

In this way Giddens's argues that structure is not external to action; it is, in a sense, more internal to the flow of action which constitutes the practices in question (Layder, 1994). The duality of structure is the core of the theory and is the basis upon which the other dualisms in social theory may be overcome.During everyday activities, agents continuously monitor their own thoughts and activities, as well as their physical and social contexts. This can be also be termed as action. According to Giddens, action should be conceived as a continuous flow of interventions in the world which are initiated by autonomous agents. Not all action is purposeful in the sense of being guided by clear purposes which the agent has in mind; but much action is purposive, in the sense that it is monitored by actors who continually survey what they are doing (Thompson, 1989). While rationalisation and reflexivity are continuously involved in action, motivations are more appropriately thought of as potentials for action. Although such action is not motivated and our motivations are generally unconscious, motivations play a significant role in human conduct (Ritzer, 2004). A more commonly used word to replace action is agency, and thus agency is what an agent actually does. It describes their behaviour. Incidentally, all individuals are in fact knowledgeable agents who are capable of accounting for their actions. It is important at this point to separate agency from intentions. Although all action involves power, it does not mean that people are not limited in the things they can achieve and transform. The extent of an individual's influence is limited by the resources at their disposal (Layder, 1994). In other words, intentional acts often have unintended consequences (Ritzer, 2004).Consistent with his emphasis on agency, Giddens accords the agent great power. This results in Giddens agents having the ability to make a difference in the social world. Without this power agents cannot properly exist, as an agent without power loses the capacity to make a difference. The concept of agency implies that a person could have done otherwise, and an agent who has no option whatsoever is no longer an agent. Giddens response to this apparent problem is to emphasize the difference between 'option' and 'feasible option' (Thompson, 1989). An individual who has only one option is not an agent, for there is no possible way in which that individual could have done otherwise. But an individual who has only one feasible option is an agent. This is because the option is only limited to one in that given the individual's wants and desires, there is only one option that the individual would regard as reasonable to pursue (Thompson, 1989). A possible course of action would not be an option for an agent if it had no relevance to anything that the agent wanted. Giddens manages to preserve the link between structure and agency by defining agency in such a way that any individual in any...

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