Social theory continuously finds itself facing predicaments surrounding the notion of dualisms. Many of the dualisms prompting debate among theorists include: micro/macro, voluntarism/determinism, subjective/objective, and agency/structure. These main dualisms present a recurring issue: that of analysing phenomena at the level of the individual in opposition to the social whole and the basic assumptions made at both levels. It is the concern over agency and structure that will be discussed and elaborated in detail below. Agency refers to the assumption that humans have the ability to make choices in the world, however, this ability to take action is not limited to the single individual and can be regarded also as actions performed by groups or organisations. Structure, on the other hand is in reference to patterns of behaviour or organisation generally viewed as outside of the human scope with enormous influential potential usually deemed as being embedded within social norms and values. Many of the common structures found in society include those such as the economy, culture, politics, education, and family. Though it has been generally agreed that both agency and structure constitute vital aspects within society; the issue at hand involves the degree to which these two units function in the social world.
[...] Time and space are crucial points in structuration theory unconscious processes link past and present . the routinization of our everyday interactions becomes necessary for our ontological security' (Giddens 1981 cited in Tucker 1998: 86). Hence time and space are conceived as structuring components of social life accordingly. Giddens argues against the notion of agency and structure as a dualism and as an alternative suggests a duality between the two (Craib 1992). However, his attempts at successfully demonstrating this duality have come under attack. [...]
[...] Talcott Parsons attempted to shift from the dualism of agency and structure within grand sociological theory by integrating the two in his model of structural-functionalism. Parsons's theory begins at the individual by explaining action as the embodiment of human ideas, norms, and values. Such norms and values, which he termed the cultural system, are internalized during socialization into the personality system and in turn influence the action of the individual within the broader social system (Ritzer & Goodman 2004). Stability of the system, however, cannot be seen as strictly the internalisation of cultural norms and values. [...]
[...] Schutz further develops this philosophy in relation to the social world and how it becomes to be known by actors. According to Schutz, the material world is made up of meaningless events which are experienced through sensual perception, ultimately these events are subject to typification organised in terms of likeness, and thus a stock of knowledge is developed about the world (Craib 1992; Outhwaite 2005). All of this, Schutz attaches to the consciousness of individuals, and therefore implies that the material world is nothing less than a creation of humans. [...]
[...] It is because agents have the ability to put themselves in other agents' positions along with their ability to be reflexive which allows a development of the self through interaction. It has been assumed by social interactionists that agents act based on meanings of objects and situations in which they are surrounded. Therefore presence of a significant symbol such as language is a critical factor since it represents shared meaning between social groups (Craib 1992). These meanings become reproduced, and reiterated through social interaction. [...]
[...] should be able to study and measure the degree of dualities and dualisms in any society at any given time in one case the social setting might be better analyzed using dualities, while in another case it might be better to use dualisms' (2004: 385). Agency and structure has been examined from both polar ends of the scale as well as a duality and dualism. Neither method of investigation should be viewed as incorrect, rather as separate perspectives further enhancing the knowledge of this topic. [...]
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