Contemporary articles citing Giddens A (1984) Constitution Soc
action, concept, agency, approach, change, them, human, process, symbolic, structures
- Kuorikoski, Jaakko & Samuli Poyhonen. 2012. "Looping Kinds and Social Mechanisms." Sociological Theory. 30:3 187-205.
- Human behavior is not always independent of the ways in which humans are scientifically classified. That there are looping effects of human kinds has been used as an argument for the methodological separation of the natural and the human sciences and to justify social constructionist claims. We suggest that these arguments rely on false presuppositions and present a mechanisms-based account of looping that provides a better way to understand the phenomenon and its theoretical and philosophical implications.
- Colyvas, Jeannette & Stefan Jonsson. 2011. "Ubiquity and Legitimacy: Disentangling Diffusion and Institutionalization." Sociological Theory. 29:1 27-53.
- Diffusion and institutionalization are of prime sociological importance, as both processes unfold at the intersections of relations and structures, as well as persistence and change. Yet they are often confounded, leading to theoretical and methodological biases that hinder the development of generalizable arguments. We look at diffusion and institutionalization distinctively, each as both a process and an outcome in terms of three dimensions: the objects that flow or stick; the subjects who adopt or influence; and the social settings through which an innovation travels. We offer examples to flesh out these dimensions, and formulate testable propositions from our analytic framework that could lead to further theoretical refinement and progress.
- Atkinson, Will. 2010. "Phenomenological Additions to the Bourdieusian Toolbox: Two Problems for Bourdieu, Two Solutions From Schutz." Sociological Theory. 28:1 1-19.
- In constructing his renowned theory of practice, Pierre Bourdieu claimed to have integrated the key insights from phenomenology and successfully melded them with objectivist analysis. The contention here, however, is that while his vision of the social world may indeed be generally laudable, he did not take enough from phenomenology. More specifically, there are two concepts in Alfred Schutz's body of work, which, if properly defined, disentangled from phenomenology, and appropriated, allow two frequently forwarded criticisms of Bourdieu's perspective to be overcome: on the one hand, a particular interpretation of the concept of lifeworld can remedy identified weaknesses on the problem of individuation; while on the other hand, Schutz's notion of the stock of knowledge can rectify Bourdieu's overly nonconscious depiction of agency. Given my overall support for Bourdieu's scheme and the fact that the extant criticisms on these two grounds are often excessive and obfuscatory, both the suggested elaborations will be prefaced by a clarificatory partial defense of his position.
- 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.
- Elder-Vass, Dave. 2007. "Reconciling Archer and Bourdieu in an Emergentist Theory of Action." Sociological Theory. 25:4 325-346.
- Margaret Archer and Pierre Bourdieu have advanced what seem at first sight to be incompatible theories of human agency. While Archer places heavy stress on conscious reflexive deliberation and the consequent choices of identity and projects that individuals make, Bourdieu's concept of habitus places equally heavy stress on the role of social conditioning in determining our behavior, and downplays the contribution of conscious deliberation. Despite this, I argue that these two approaches, with some modification, can be reconciled in a single emergentist theory of human action that is sketched out in this article. It examines how human dispositions and our reflexive decisions are related to the determination of human action, linking dispositions and decisions to their neural base in human physiology and to the social factors that influence them. As a result, it argues, we can see human action as the outcome of a continuous interaction between dispositions and reflexivity. The article goes on to relate this explanation back to Bourdieu's concept of the habitus and Archer's account of reflexivity. It argues that the weaknesses in Bourdieu's theory of action can be resolved by a reasonable reinterpretation of the habitus that makes it consistent with the emergentist theory and creates space for human choices as well as social influences on our behavior. This opens up a role for the sort of reflexive deliberations advocated by Archer and thus to a reconciliation of the key contributions of both Archer and Bourdieu.
- Garcelon, Marc. 2006. "Trajectories of Institutional Disintegration in Late-soviet Russia and Contemporary Iraq." Sociological Theory. 24:3 255-283.
- How might revolutions and other processes of institutional disintegration inform political processes preceding them ? By mapping paths of agency through processes of institutional disintegration, the trajectory improvisation model of institutional breakdown overcomes ``action-structure'' binaries by framing political revolutions as possible outcomes of such disintegrative processes. The trajectory improvisation approach expands the trajectory adjustment model of social change developed by Gil Eyal, Ivan Szelenyi, and Eleanor Townsley. An overview of political revolution in Soviet Russia between 1989 and 1991 illustrates trajectory improvisation. The recent American invasion and occupation of Iraq shows alternative routes to institutional disintegration, indicating the independence of models of institutional breakdown from those of social movements. These cases illustrate both the diversity of situations the trajectory improvisation model speaks to, and the limitation of models of trajectory adjustment, improvisation, social movements, and invasions, illustrating why such models at best enable what are called ``explanatory narratives'' of actual historical processes.
- Kennedy, MD. 2004. "Evolution and Event in History and Social Change: Gerhard Lenski's Critical Theory." Sociological Theory. 22:2 315-327.
- Authors have contrasted social change and history many times, especially in terms of the significance of the event in accounting for the broadest contours of human societies' evolution. After recasting Gerhard Lenski's ecological-evolutionary theory in a critical fashion, by emphasizing its engagement with alternativity and by introducing a different approach to structure, I reconsider the salience of the event in the developmentalist project and suggest that ecological-evolutionary theory can be quite helpful in posing new questions about an eventful sociology. By rethinking communism's collapse in 1989 and terrorism's explosion in 2001 within Lenski's theoretical frame, one can suggest critical transformations of theory and research on the evolution of human societies.
- Hallett, T. 2003. "Symbolic Power and Organizational Culture." Sociological Theory. 21:2 128-149.
- With the recent wave of corporate scandals, organizational culture has regained relevance in politics and the media, However, to acquire enduring utility, the concept needs an overhaul to overcome the weaknesses of earlier approaches. As such, this paper reconceptualizes organizational culture as a negotiated order (Strauss 1978) that emerges through interactions between participants, an order influenced by those with the symbolic power to define the situation. I stress the complementary contributions of theorists of,practice (Bourdieu and Swidler) and theorists of interaction (Goffman and Strauss), building upward from practice into interaction, symbolic power, and the negotiated order. Using data from initial reports on the fall of Arthur Andersen and Co., I compare this symbolic power approach to other approaches (culture as subjective beliefs and values or as context/public meaning). The symbolic power model has five virtues: an empirically observable object of study; the capacity to explain conflict and integration; the ability to explain stability and change; causal efficacy; and links between the micro-, meso-, and macrolevels of analysis. Though this paper focuses on organizational culture, the symbolic power model provides theoretical leverage for understanding many situated contexts.
- Fligstein, N. 2001. "Social Skill and the Theory of Fields." Sociological Theory. 19:2 105-125.
- The problem of the relationship between actors and the social structures in which they are embedded is central to sociological theory. This paper suggests that the ``new institutionalist ``focus on fields, domains, or games provides an alternative view of how to think about this problem by focusing on the construction of loca( orders. This paper criticizes the conception of actors in both rational choice and sociological versions of these theories. A more sociological view of action, what is called ``social skill,'' is developed. The idea of social skill originates in symbolic interactionism and is defined as the ability to induct cooperation in others. This idea is elaborated to suggest how actors are important to the construction and reproduction of local orders. I show how, its elements already inform existing work. Finally I show how the idea can sensitize scholars to the role of actors in empirical work.
- Goldberg, CA. 2001. "Welfare Recipients or Workers? Contesting the Workfare State in New York City." Sociological Theory. 19:2 187-218.
- This paper addresses how New York City's workfare program has structural opportunities for collective action by welfare recipients. As workfare blurs the distinction between wage workers and welfare recipients, it calls into question accepted understandings of the rights and obligations of welfare recipients and fosters new claims on the state. The concept of ``cultural opportunity structures'' can help to explain the political mobilization of workfare participants if it is linked to a Durkheimian tradition of cultural analysis attentive to symbolic classification. The dramaturgic approach to culture exemplified in the work of Erving Goffman can usefully complement this structural approach if a narrow focus on frames and framing process is broadened to include interaction rituals and ceremonial profanation.
- Kamolnick, P. 2001. "Simmel's Legacy for Contemporary Value Theory: a Critical Assessment." Sociological Theory. 19:1 65-85.
- In this essay I critically assess Georg Simmel's legacy for contemporary value theory and provide the rudiments of an alternative approach. My central thesis is that Simmel fails to satisfactorily, conceptualize the nature ann origin of value because of his duration to an asocial, Cartesian-Kantian conception of mind, human freedom, anti agency. In contrast. I incorporate recent data from neuroscience, social self theory, developmental psychology: and elements of Marx's theory of the commodity form to provide the terms of a postmetaphysical, intersubjective alternative.
- King, A. 2000. "Thinking With Bourdieu Against Bourdieu: a `practical' Critique of the Habitus." Sociological Theory. 18:3 417-433.
- There are two strands in Bourclieu's sociological writings. On the one hand Bourdieu argues for a theoretical position one might term his `practical theory'' which emphasizes virtuosic interactions between individuals. On the other hand, and most frequently, Bourdieu appeals to the concept of the habitus according to which society consists of objective structures and determined-and isolated-individuals. Although Bourdieu believes that the habitus is compatible with his practical theory and overcomes the impasse of objectivism and subjectivism in social theory, neither claim is the case; the habitus is incompatible with his practical theory, and it retreats quickly into objectivism. However Bourdieu's practical theory does offer a way out of the impasse of objectivism and subjectivism by focussing on the intersubjective interactions between individuals.
- Eliasoph, N & P Lichterman. 1999. "``we Begin With Our Favorite Theory ...'': Reconstructing the Extended Case Method." Sociological Theory. 17:2 228-234.
- Camic, C. 1998. "Reconstructing the Theory of Action." Sociological Theory. 16:3 283-291.
- Burawoy, M. 1998. "The Extended Case Method." Sociological Theory. 16:1 4-33.
- In this article I elaborate and codify the extended case method. which deploys participant observation to locate everyday life in its extralocal and historical context. The extended case method emulates a reflexive model of science that takes as its premise the intersubjectivity of scientist and subject of study: Reflexive science valorizes intervention, process, structuration, and theory reconstruction. It is the Siamese twin of positive science that proscribes reactivity but upholds reliability replicability, and representativeness. Positive science, exemplified by survey research, works on the principle of the separation between scientists and the subjects they examine. Positive science is limited by ``context effects'' (interview: respondent, field, and situational effects) while reflex ive science is limited by ``power effects'' (domination, silencing, objectification, and normalization). The article concludes by considering the implications of having two models of science rather than one, both of which are necessarily flawed. Throughout I use a study of postcolonialism to illustrate both the virtues and the shortcomings of the extended case method. Methodology can only bring us reflective understanding of the means which have demonstrated their value in practice by raising them to the level of explicit consciousness; it is no more the precondition of fruitful intellectual work than the knowledge of anatomy is the precondition of ``correct'' walking.
- Kane, AE. 1997. "Theorizing Meaning Construction in Social Movements: Symbolic Structures and Interpretation During the Irish Land War, 1879-1882." Sociological Theory. 15:3 249-276.
- Though the process of meaning construction is widely recognized to be a crucial factor in the mobilization, unfolding, and outcomes of social movements, the conditions and mechanisms that allow meaning construction and cultural transformation are often misconceptualized and/or underanalyzed. Following a ``tool kit'' perspective on culture, dominant social movement theory locates meaning only as it is embodied in concrete social practices. Meaning construction from this perspective is a matter of manipulating static symbols and meaning to achieve goals. I argue instead that meaning is located in the structure of culture, and that the condition and mechanism of meaning construction and transformation are, respectively, the metaphoric nature of symbolic systems, and individual and collective interpretation of those systems in the face of concrete events. This theory is demonstrated by analyzing, through textual analysis, meaning construction during the Irish Land War 1879-1882, showing how diverse social groups constructed new and emergent symbolic meanings and how transformed collective understandings contributed to specific, yet unpredictable, political action and movement outcomes. The theoretical model and empirical case demonstrates that social movement analysis must examine the metaphoric logic of symbolic systems and the interpretive process by which people construct meaning in order to fully explain the role of culture in social movements, the agency of movement participants, and the contingency of the course and outcomes of social movements.
- COHEN, IJ & MF ROGERS. 1994. "Autonomy and Credibility - Voice as Method." Sociological Theory. 12:3 304-318.
- Although little noticed by practicing theorists, narrative voice influences theoretical work. This essay presents a demonstration of voice as method, concentrating on brief segments of works by Garfinkel and Goffman. We attend to two methodological themes: how theorists use voice to establish intellectual autonomy, and how the use of voice influences credibility with readers. Garfinkel maximizes his autonomy by using narrative techniques that isolate him from his readers, and produce little common context with them as a result. Goffman maintains a context for credibility with his readers by using a personal voice, but he uses this voice to request their indulgence as he follows his autonomous muse. Goffman's narrative self-indulgence prevents him from fashioning a coherent theoretical program for his readers, something Garfinkel's distant voice enables him to achieve.