Police Officers: Their Work and Actions: Structure Agency Debate

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In order to understand the attitudes towards police work and the actions of police officers one can make use of the Structure-agency debate which has three distinct perspectives; structure, agency and structuration. This essay shall argue which position is best to apply by drawing on sociological theories and concepts. As stated by Abercrombie (in Van Huyssteen, 2003: 228) the Structure-agency debate refers to “what extent individuals are the product of social structures, and to what extent can they act upon those social structures.” Social structures are frameworks within society that influence the way in which we behave such as the education, family, race, and rules. (Kendall, 2013, p. 119) In other words, the structure agency debate is an argument between three different ideologies that explain and analyze individual’s actions and decisions. Some sociologists believe that humans have the freedom to make their own choices and decide how they behave (agency) while others theorize that human behavior is determined and influenced by the patterns, arrangements, norms and guidelines of society (structure). The third position doesn’t choose either or but rather states that the two; structure and agency equally play a role in shaping human behaviour and attitudes; this perspective is known as structuration; developed by Giddens (as sited in Huyssteen, 2003). Inspector Solomon Makaye; also known as ‘Fats’ Makaye is a police officer to which this essay will be centered around (revised from A Night on the Town: chapter twelve). Inspector Makaye is the oldest man in his unit (situated in Ivory Park) as well as the senior leader in his team (Altbeker 2005, p. 201-202). His general attitude towards his work and his role as a policeman is th... ... middle of paper ... ...olice force, he should work for a police service” (Altbeker 2005, p.210). Individual choice, interpretation and making sense of one’s situation are aspects of agency. By assessing the last two paragraphs it can be said that both structure and agency together give a clear understanding and explanation of inspector Makaye. Structuration is the most effective perspective as it outlines the broader picture of who he is; his identity as human identity and behaviour is shaped by individuals and society (Lemert, sited in Huyssteen 2003). This essay has understood the attitudes towards police officers and their work and concludes that in order to fully comprehend why their behaviour one should go beyond the positions of structure and agency and adopt the structuration perspective, which considers that society and individuals influence officers such as Inspector Makaye.

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