Contemporary articles citing Emirbayer M (1998) Am J Sociol
agency, concept, action, structure, process, actors, finally, relational, theories, forms
- Silver, Daniel. 2011. "The Moodiness of Action." Sociological Theory. 29:3 199-222.
- This article argues that the concept of moodiness provides significant resources for developing a more robust pragmatist theory of action. Building on current conceptualizations of agency as effort by relational sociologists, it turns to the early work of Talcott Parsons to outline the theoretical presuppositions and antinomies endemic to any such conception; William James and John Dewey provide an alternative conception of effort as a contingent rather than fundamental form of agency. The article then proposes a way forward to a nonvoluntarist theory of action by introducing the notion of moodiness, highlighting how the concept permits a richer conceptualization of actors' prereflexive involvement in and relatedness to nonneutral, demanding situations. Effort is reconceptualized as a moment in a broader process of action, where the mood is fragile and problematical. Finally, the article draws all of these elements together in an outline of a unified portrait of the pragmatist action cycle that includes both creativity and moodiness as essential moments.
- Archer, Margaret. 2010. "Routine, Reflexivity, and Realism." Sociological Theory. 28:3 272-303.
- Many scholars continue to accord routine action a central role in social theory and defend the continuing relevance of Bourdieu's habitus. Simultaneously, most recognize the importance of reflexivity. In this article, I consider three versions of the effort to render these concepts compatible, which I term ``empirical combination,'' ``hybridization,'' and ``ontological and theoretical reconciliation.'' None of the efforts is ultimately successful in analytical terms. Moreover, I argue on empirical grounds that the relevance of habitus began to decrease toward the end of the 20th century, given major changes in the structures of the advanced capitalist democracies. In these circumstances, habitual forms prove incapable of providing guidelines for people's lives and, thus, make reflexivity imperative. I conclude by arguing that even the reproduction of natal background is a reflexive activity today and that the mode most favorable to producing it-what I call ``communicative reflexivity''-is becoming harder to sustain.
- Garcelon, Marc. 2010. "The Missing Key: Institutions, Networks, and the Project of Neoclassical Sociology." Sociological Theory. 28:3 326-353.
- The diversity of contemporary ``capitalisms'' underscores the need to supplant the amorphous concept of structure with more precise concepts, particularly institutions and networks. All institutions entail both embodied and relational aspects. Institutions are relational insofar as they map obligatory patterns of ``getting by and getting along''-institutional orders-that steer stable social fields over time. Institutions are simultaneously embodied as institutional paradigms, part of a larger bodily agency Pierre Bourdieu called habitus. Institutions are in turn tightly coupled to networks between various people based on, but not reducible to, strategic interests. Yet social interaction sometimes exceeds institutional boundaries, giving rise to disjunctive fields and underscoring the prominence of institutional failures in the unfolding of antagonistic relations such as warfare. Such disjunctive fields can be tracked in relation to some transnational networks at the global level without assuming developmental convergence. This last point underscores the meaning of neoclassical sociology, which eschews assumptions of developmental convergence at the global level.
- Lo, Ming-Cheng & Yun Fan. 2010. "Hybrid Cultural Codes in Nonwestern Civil Society: Images of Women in Taiwan and Hong Kong." Sociological Theory. 28:2 167-192.
- Scholars have established that cultural codes and styles of expression in civil society must be recognized as informal mechanisms of exclusion, calling into question the possibility of the Habermasian normative ideal of the public sphere. This article joins theoretical discussions of how to remedy this problem. Going beyond Alexander's model of ``multicultural incorporation'' and borrowing from Sewell's theory of the duality of structure, we develop a theoretical framework of code hybridization to conceptualize how civil society participants achieve civil solidarity amid multiple, potentially contradictory cultural legacies. Code hybridization is a process whereby social actors not only incorporate the cultural codes of subordinate groups into the public sphere, but in doing so also potentially transform dominant codes. We conceptualize code hybridization in terms of three analytic steps: enlargement of the terrains of signification; reinterpretation of codes; and mixing of schemas. The resulting hybridized schemas and frameworks are particularly useful cultural tools for developing visions of civil inclusiveness for young, unstable civil societies. Using a brief comparative study of the representation of women in political cartoons in Hong Kong and Taiwan, we offer a concrete example of code hybridization a process linking the codes of liberty and caring while producing alternative and more inclusive narratives during moments of political agitation.
- Reay, Mike. 2010. "Knowledge Distribution, Embodiment, and Insulation." Sociological Theory. 28:1 91-107.
- This article looks at how parts of a social stock of knowledge can become insulated from each other via their uneven distribution both ``horizontally'' across time and space, and ``vertically'' with respect to degrees of embodiment in unconscious habits and routines. It uses ideas from Alfred Schutz, Peter Berger, Thomas Luckmann, Michael Polanyi, and others to argue that this insulation can produce a highly dynamic structuring of knowledge, awareness of which has the potential to help explain the existence of ignorance, misperception, and multiple interpretations in different social settings. This potential is illustrated with examples taken from a study of American economists, showing how an approach considering insulation can improve understanding of at least one currently influential branch of knowledge. The article also suggests briefly how such an approach might augment recent theories of habitual action by accounting for both stability and change, and even help with some longstanding epistemological problems in social theory.
- Campbell, Colin. 2009. "Distinguishing the Power of Agency From Agentic Power: a Note on Weber and the ``black Box'' of Personal Agency*." Sociological Theory. 27:4 407-418.
- The concept of agency, although central to many sociological debates, has remained frustratingly elusive to pin down. This article is an attempt to open up what has been called the ``black box'' of personal agency by distinguishing clearly between two contrasting conceptions of the phenomenon. These two conceptions are very apparent in the manner in which the concept is defined in sociological reference works, resembling as it does a similar contrast in the treatment of the concept of power. The two are referred to as type 1 and type 2 or the power of agency as compared with agentic power, the essential contrast being that the first refers to an actor's ability to initiate and maintain a program of action while the second refers to an actor's ability to act independently of the constraining power of social structure. The nature of these two forms of personal agency is then illustrated by referring to material taken from Weber's essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, this essay itself being understood as an argument that focuses on the crucial role played by an increase in the power of agency in ushering in the modern world. Finally, it is argued that these two conceptions of agency possess no given logical relationship with each other, it being perfectly possible for individuals to be possessed of considerable power of agency while lacking agentic power, and vice versa. It is therefore concluded that it is important, in all discussions of human agency, to distinguish clearly between these two forms.
- Depelteau, Francois. 2008. "Relational Thinking: a Critique of Co-deterministic Theories of Structure and Agency." Sociological Theory. 26:1 51-73.
- This article presents a relational criticism of the ``morphogenetic theory'' of M. Archer. This theory is founded and representative of the most influential mode of perception of the social universe of the last few decades: co-determinism (structure <-> agency). Co-determinism's influence can be explained by its integration of modern general presuppositions like freedom, individualism, and the quest for a new social order. By identifying five basic principles of relational sociology, we see that Archer's co-deterministic theory offers a complicated solution to avoid voluntarism and co-determinism, limits the potential of sociological imagination, cannot adequately see the fluidity of social processes, produces a certain reification of social structures and agency, and is based on an inconsistent use of egocentric and relational perspectives. These problems can be avoided if we use a relational approach (actor <-> actor double right arrow structures) based on the study of complex and empirical trans-actions.
- Hitlin, Steven & Glen Elder. 2007. "Time, Self, and the Curiously Abstract Concept of Agency." Sociological Theory. 25:2 170-191.
- The term ``agency'' is quite slippery and is used differently depending on the epistemological roots and goals of scholars who employ it. Distressingly, the sociological literature on the concept rarely addresses relevant social psychological research. We take a social behaviorist approach to agency by suggesting that individual temporal orientations are underutilized in conceptualizing this core sociological concept. Different temporal foci-the actor's engaged response to situational circumstances-implicate different forms of agency. This article offers a theoretical model involving four analytical types of agency (''existential,'' ``identity,''''pragmatic,'' and ``life course'') that are often conflated across treatments of the topic. Each mode of agency overlaps with established social psychological literatures, most notably about the self, enabling scholars to anchor overly abstract treatments of agency within established research literatures.
- Whipple, M. 2005. "The Dewey-lippmann Debate Today: Communication Distortions, Reflective Agency, and Participatory Democracy." Sociological Theory. 23:2 156-178.
- In this article, I introduce the Dewey-Lippmann democracy debate of the 1920s as a vehicle for considering how social theory can enhance the empirical viability of participatory democratic theory within the current context of advanced capitalism. I situate within this broad theoretical framework the theories of Habermas and Dewey. In the process, I argue (a) that while Dewey largely failed to reconcile his democratic ideal with the empirical constraint of large-scale organizations, Habermas, in particular his work on the public sphere, provides an important starting point for considering the state of public participation within the communication distortions of advanced capitalism; (b) that to fully understand the relation between communication distortions and public participation, social theorists must look beyond Habermas and return to Dewey to mobilize his bi-level view of habitual and reflective human agency; and, finally, (c) that the perspective of a Deweyan political theory of reflective agency best furthers our understanding of potential communication distortions and public participation, particularly in the empirical spaces of media centralization and intellectual property rights.
- Alexander, JC. 2004. "Cultural Pragmatics: Social Performance Between Ritual and Strategy." Sociological Theory. 22:4 527-573.
- Front its very beginnings, the social study of culture has been polarized between structuralist theories that treat meaning as a text and investigate the patterning that provides relative autonomy and pragmatist theories that treat meaning as emerging from the contingencies of individual and collective action-so-called practices-and that analyze cultural patterns as reflections of power and material interest. In this article, I present a theory of cultural pragmatics that transcends this division, bringing meaning structures, contingency, power, and materiality together in a new way. My argument is that the materiality of practices should be replaced by the more multidimensional concept Of performances. Drawing on the new field of performance studies, cultural pragmatics demonstrates how social performances, whether individual or collective, can be analogized systematically to theatrical ones. After defining the elements of social performance, I suggest that these elements have become ``de-fased'' as societies have become more complex. Performances are successful only insofar as they can ``re-fuse'' these increasingly disentangled elements. In a fused performance, audiences identify with actors, and cultural effective mise-en-scene. Performances fail when this scripts achieve verisimilitude through rethinking process is incomplete: the elements of performance remain, apart, and social action seems inauthentic and artificial, failing to persuade. Refusion, by contrast, allows actors to communicate the meanings of their actions successfully and thus to pursue their interests effectively.
- Fuchs, S. 2001. "Beyond Agency." Sociological Theory. 19:1 24-40.
- The reason why agency/structure and micro/macro debates remain unresolved is the bad essentialist habit of treating such pairs as opposite natural kinds. Once variation is allowed, agency and structure. or micro and macro, are temporal? poles bracketing a continuum. with serial entities moving along this continuum over time. Explaining these transformations from agency into structure, or micro into macro. and vice versa is the challenge for explanatory theory. This challenge is met by switching to a constructivist level of second-order observing. Then, agency and structure become variable devices or frames different observers might use to perform different sorts of cultural work.
- Gibson, DR. 2000. "Seizing the Moment: the Problem of Conversational Agency." Sociological Theory. 18:3 368-382.
- In conversation, actors face constraints on when they can speak, whom they can address, what they can say, and what they carr safely expect from others by way of cooperation. This is the backdrop against which people pursue their idiosyncratic interests and objectives, success at which constitutes conversational agency. In principle, agency is made possible by the ``looseness'' of conversational constraints. This does not create a clear path for the advancement of personal ends, however, since options are always limited by the context, and success is always contingent upon the cooperation of others. Ultimately, the most agentic people are those who readily exploit imperfect options though this means abandoning the inflexible pursuit of pre-conceived objectives.