Richard Jenkins
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Beyond social structure
in Human agents and social structures
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This chapter argues that the concept of social structure, in all its varieties, is too vague to be useful. It does not correspond to the observable individual and collective realities of the human world; and it is too tainted with determinism to accommodate a view of human beings as reasoning agents. A concept that is as vague as social structure is unlikely to correspond to the observable realities of the human world. The 'structuration' debate, the conversation between social theorists about the relationship between 'structure' and 'action' shows no sign of resolution, although war weariness may have set in. This chapter argues that with no claim to novelty, that this debate and its predecessors have been inconclusive because of a fundamental misconception. The notion of social structure has dispatched many social theorists on wild goose chases from which they could never return with anything useful.

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