Structure And Agency Analysis

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Giddens (as cited in Ritzer & Goodman, 2003) argues that structure and agency, although a dichotomy, mustn’t be regarded as working independent of one another. Instead the nature of human interaction and action relies on the interlaced mechanism of agency and structure. Human practices are recursive, thus individuals create both their cognizance and the structural conditions within which they act. Since social actors are reflexive and observe the ongoing flow of activities and structural conditions, they adapt their actions responsively to those evolving insights. An example of such adaptation is the ways in which stigmatized individuals manage their identity to conform to the structural norms and expectations of society. Goffman’s concept of ‘information control’ as a means of ‘stigma management’ provides us with a scenario in which agency and structure work together as both the justification and reason for motivated action for a stigmatized individual. Goffman (1963) implies that individuals are responsible for their own actions as well as able to manage the interpretations of others in relation their actions. Thus, stigmatized actors can tactfully represent themselves in a more socially acceptable and positive light. This is done primarily to control the conduct of others, especially the potentially negative responsive treatment towards the stigmatized person. Linking behaviour to personal values and belief systems, Mills (1940) adds to this discussion by claiming that motives are the terms used by social actors, to organize and guide their conduct. The actor and the audience, as a means to bring order to a situation, justify and confirm behaviour and mediate the reactions of others using the vocabulary of motives. Thus, motiv... ... middle of paper ... And as suggested by Mills’ (1940) “Rather than interpreting actions and language as external manifestations of subjective and deeper lying elements in individuals, the research task is the locating of particular types of action within typal frames of normative actions and socially situated clusters of motive” (p. 913). Thus, echoing Mills’ (1940) conceptualization of motives as “varying in content and character with historical epochs and societal structures” (p. 913), the vocabularies of human motivation must be considered as fluid and dynamic a concept as the concept of identity itself. Just as the theory of structuration stresses the duality of structure and agency, it must be understood that there can be no agency without structures that shape motives into practices and likewise there can be no structures independent of the routine practices that create them.
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