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The structure/agency debate has been among the central issues in discussions of social theory. It has been widely assumed that the key theoretical task is to find a link between social structures and acting human beings to reconcile the macro with the micro, society and the individual. This book considers a general movement in which the collective concepts established by the early pioneers of modern sociological thought have been reconsidered in the light of both theoretical critique and empirical results. It argues that the contemporary sociological preoccupation with structure and agency has had disastrous effects on the understanding of Karl Marx's ideas. Through a critical evaluation of 'structuration theory' as a purported synthesis of 'structure and agency', the book also argues that the whole idea of a structure-and-agency 'problem' mythologises the fracture lines that do run through relatively recent sociological thought. Michel Foucault's ideas were used to both shore up existing positions in sociology and to instantiate (or solve) the 'new' structure-agency 'problem'. Foucault allowed sociologists to conduct 'business as usual' between the demise of structuralism and the contemporary consensus around Pierre Bourdieu-Anthony Giddens-Jurgen Habermas and the structure-agency dualisms. Habermas is one of the most prominent figures in contemporary social theory.

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The opposition of structure and agency
Peter J. Martin and Alex Dennis

‘experience’ of ‘sociated individuals’. Indeed, the apparent opposition between what has been called the ‘objective reality of institutions’ (Berger and Luckmann, 1991[1966]: 78) and the apparently subjective experience of individual human beings has given rise to a basic tension within sociological thought. Simmel’s remarks, it should be noted, are now more than a century old, yet it would seem that little progress has been made in reconciling the ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ aspects of social life, with the concept of ‘society’ still seen in opposition to that of the

in Human agents and social structures
Peter J. Martin

Introduction The aim of this chapter is to consider a general movement in which the collective concepts established by the early pioneers of modern sociological thought have been reconsidered in the light of both theoretical critique and empirical results. The issues raised were already evident in the divergence between the early programmatic formulations of the sociological agenda produced by Durkheim (e.g. 1982[1895]) and Weber (e.g. 1978[1920]), in the subsequent debates about their approaches, and are at the heart of the familiar opposition

in Human agents and social structures
Is structuration a solution?
Wes Sharrock

Through a critical evaluation of ‘structuration theory’ as a purported synthesis of ‘structure and agency’ (or, alternatively, structuralism and hermeneutics), I will argue 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. It, as in the case of structuration theory, considers the ‘problem’ in a

in Human agents and social structures
Mikael Klintman

In this chapter, the picture is broadened from descriptions of how community-based knowledge resistance takes place to why such patterns are so prevalent. To do this, the chapter combines perspective about human biological evolution with anthropological and sociological thought. What – if anything – could be the ‘adaptive value’ of knowledge resistance of groups? Could different chances of survival and reproduction throughout the long human history be associated with differences in people’s inclination to conform to the knowledge beliefs of their community? Community-based knowledge conformity is here illustrated by an examination of religious and scientific groups. The chapter also sheds light on such conformity in the context of male-dominated audiophile communities in their passionate pursuit of the perfect stereo-system sound. The more sceptical science is about the superiority of some audio equipment over other, the more it strengthens the sense of audiophile communities to insist that the double-blind comparisons of audio equipment carried out by scientists lack the sensitivity and sophistication of the golden ears of audiophiles.

in Knowledge resistance

Karl Polanyi (1886–1964) returned to public discourse in the 1990s, when the Soviet Union imploded and globalization erupted. Best known for The Great Transformation, Polanyi’s wide-ranging thought anticipated twenty-first-century civilizational challenges of ecological collapse, social disintegration and international conflict, and warned that the unbridled domination of market capitalism would engender nationalist protective counter-movements. In Karl Polanyi and Twenty-First-Century Capitalism, Radhika Desai and Kari Polanyi Levitt bring together prominent and new thinkers in the field to extend the boundaries of our understanding of Polanyi's life and work. Kari Polanyi Levitt's opening essay situates Polanyi in the past century shaped by Keynes and Hayek, and explores how and why his ideas may shape the twenty-first century. Her analysis of his Bennington Lectures, which pre-dated and anticipated The Great Transformation, demonstrates how Central European his thought and chief concerns were. The next several contributions clarify, for the first time in Polanyi scholarship, the meaning of money as a fictitious commodity. Other contributions resolve difficulties in understanding the building blocks of Polanyi's thought: fictitious commodities, the double movement, the United States' exceptional development, the reality of society and socialism as freedom in a complex society. The volume culminates in explorations of how Polanyi has influenced, and can be used to develop, ideas in a number of fields, whether income inequality, world-systems theory or comparative political economy. Contributors: Fred Block, Michael Brie, Radhika Desai, Michael Hudson, Hannes Lacher, Kari Polanyi Levitt, Chikako Nakayama, Jamie Peck, Abraham Rotstein, Margaret Somers, Claus Thomasberger, Oscar Ugarteche Galarza.

Peter J. Martin

reflects a fundamental change in capitalist societies themselves during the twentieth century: from an earlier period in which people’s sense of their own and other identities was closely linked to the kind of work they did and when sociological thought was much influenced by the notion of human beings as producers, to an era in which both identities and sociologists’ interests were shaped by a concern with acts of consumption (e.g. Chaney, 2004: 41). Clearly, this reorientation brings with it a new focus on commodity consumption, lifestyles, and the effects of the mass

in Music and the sociological gaze
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Pan-African Philosopher of Democracy and Development
L. Adele Jinadu

, political obligation and political legitimacy. These concerns involve the nature of access to, and the ownership of, the state. This question has historically provided the defining core or substantive subject-matter of political theory and sociological thought: “Who owns the state? Whose interest does the state serve?” The long history, since time immemorial, of the struggle for democracy and development worldwide, sometimes assuming the form of revolutionary warfare, within, across and between countries, reflects an attempt to resolve these core questions

in The Pan-African Pantheon
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“The Father of Pan-Africanism”?
Aldon D. Morris

dawn of the twentieth century, Du Bois developed an internationalist view which stressed the interconnected and interactive nature of global racism. From this perspective, structural racism could only be understood if addressed locally and internationally. New School for Sociological Thought on Race and Racism Classical Western social scientists sought to identify the causes of modern capitalism. For example, German sociologist Karl Marx located capitalism’s origins in a historical class struggle driven by

in The Pan-African Pantheon
Open Access (free)
Geoffrey Wood

sociological thought, post-modernism. The similarly diverse ‘neoenlightenment approach’, drawing on the works of a range of classical social thinkers, focused on issues such as the most appropriate means of realizing the goals of the Enlightenment – namely, the rationalization of social life – and the value of classical constructs for social analysis. Some of the principal theoretical strands and developments are summarized in Table 8.2. Table 8.2 Social theories of democracy, 1968–89 Classical Political Economy approach Postmodernism NeoEnlightenmentbased approaches

in Democratization through the looking-glass