Human agents and social structures

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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