This chapter argues that the whole idea of a structure-and-agency 'problem' mythologises the fracture lines that do run through relatively recent sociological thought. The structure-and-agency 'problem' is contrived by a powerful structure 'lobby' in sociology that takes its own baseline suppositions as self-evident. The chapter shows that symbolic interactionists and ethnomethodologists may legitimately resist the idea that 'structuration' in any way improves on their conceptions. It reviews the issues of the organisation of action, the distinctiveness of Giddens' concept of structure, the role of unintended consequences, and of 'knowledgeability'. Dissatisfaction with theorising's remoteness from the world of action is hardly unique to symbolic interactionists and ethnomethodologists, but it is shared by them. 'Reproducing existing structures' is treated as much the same as reproducing the existing order of institutions, and it is assumed that attention to action alone cannot comprehend how the existing social order is maintained and transformed.
The structure-and-agency 'problem' is too readily accepted as providing a crystallisation of the nodal issues in sociological theory. The articulation of the interrelationship between agency and structure within a unifying scheme is considered by many leading theorists to be the central task of contemporary theory. This chapter deals with gross and prominent misrepresentations of agency positions. These caricatures of agency are being used feloniously in the demarcation of distinct sociological traditions. One problematic domain of the agency argument for structuralists is what they understand agency proponents to be advancing when they articulate ideas of the 'construction', 'achievement' or 'accomplishment' of social reality. In particular, contemporary arguments distort the characteristics of the relevant theories associated with 'agency', such as methodological individualism, interactionism and phenomenologies, as well as crucial arguments in Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons.