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The Relationship between Agency and Structure The relationship between individual action and social structure is a theoretical-methodological topic with important empirical implications. It is tied to many questions, ranging from the definition of the individual action agency and of the social structure structure to the forms of interaction between them, and finally to the superiority of one over the other in the interaction process.
The relationship between agency and structure is very controversial in social science. An important part of the debate concerns the fundamental and distinctive characteristics of individual action: Is intentional and conscious action is a specific prerogative of the human being?
Is human behavior always intentional and conscious or are there cases of unconscious and repetitive actions? Are individuals independent making their own choices freely, or is individual behavior conditional? How are the desires and objectives of agents formed? Of equal importance are the questions about the nature of the social structure: Is society simply the sum of several individuals, each with their own characteristics, or is it something more?
If one accepts the hypothesis that the coexistence of individuals produces social relations, what is their nature?
Is it possible to think that social relations are reproduced in time and space, acquiring more and more importance until they become social structures, i. Is it possible to think that the analysis of society must include the study of individuals together with the study of social structures?
Thus, the concepts of agency and structure are presented as opposites. The first refers to the individual and relates to the motivations behind the action, the will and the choice, the freedom and the intentionality.
The second refers to the society and the environment in which individuals put their own choices into operation and act them out. The debate on the relationship between agency and structure raises other questions: And, conversely, how does individual action create and transform social structure?
What is the causal mechanism that links the two entities? Which one is dominant? In recent debate, the problem of the relationship between agency and structure has been addressed by two very different answers: In reference to methodological individualism, the common assumption is that deliberate and conscious action is an exclusive feature of the human being and that social processes can be interpreted as an expression of the individual, of his characteristics, of his objectives and desires.
As Archeraffirms, according to methodological individualism, the features of society are incorporated within the individual; society is a collective of individuals and the burden of the interpretation of development and change falls on the individual and on the motivations for his actions.
A significant example of methodological individualism is made from the basic model of neoclassical economics. In this case, the logic of methodological individualism is taken to the extreme because while it is assumed that the structure is fully explained by the individual action, the choices are attributed to the preferences that are independent of social conditioning.
This situation is illustrated by neoclassical Institutionalism. While we admit the existence of a social and institutional fabric, it is stated that the structures and institutions which compose it are the product of the interaction between agents, each of which pursues its own individual interest.
However, even the preferences are pre-determined and the model does not provide an interpretation of the interactions between agents, or those between agents and structure. Methodological collectivism analyzes the relationship between agency and structure in a different manner.
The actions and motivations are explained in terms of social phenomena and are determined by the structure.
The theories of Methodological Collectivism show two main problems that affect their ability to interpret the relationships between agents and structure.
The first is that the role of agents is assigned to social structures. Agents have their own will and resolution a role that methodological individualism considers to be specific to human beings.
The second is that there is a real risk of deterministic drifts: Thus one can observe various forms of determinism which are dependent on the components of the prevalent structure in question e. In these cases, the social structures associated with different phenomena assume the function of agents, relegating humans to the role of robot without capacity for deliberation Hodgson, Its main objective is to connect human action and the evolution of social structure.
Individuals are in the social structures and social structures are within individuals Giddens Individuals act in a social context that includes both the actions of other individuals and the constraints and opportunities created and offered by social structures Giddens Although Giddens has had the merit of having emphasized the mutual interdependence between social structure and human action, its solution has been criticized a lot.
Thus, the emphasis on the mutual interdependence of structure and action makes it impossible to analyze the relationships between them, the effects that one exerts on the other, the impact they have on change and development.Professor David Lovell. Professor in International and Political Studies Lovell DW, , 'Marxism and Social Theory', EUROPEAN LEGACY-TOWARD NEW PARADIGMS, vol.
14, LOVELL DW, , 'RECONSTRUCTING MARXISM - ESSAYS ON EXPLANATION AND THE THEORY OF HISTORY - WRIGHT,EO, LEVINE,A, SOBER,E', HISTORY OF EUROPEAN IDEAS. Reconstructing Marxism explores fundamental questions about the structure of Marxist theory and its prospects for the future.
The authors maintain that the disintegration of the old theoretical unity of classical Marxism is in part responsible for what is commonly called the "crisis of Marxism.".
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Distinguished by means of the readability of its presentation, the analytical rigor of its argument and its challenge with basic philosophical and sociological concerns, Reconstructing Marxism advances, at this serious juncture within the historical past of Marxism, a tough new learn application.
Reconstructing Marxism Essays On Explanation And The Theory Of History PDF Format PDF Format Reconstructing Marxism Essays On Explanation And The Theory Of History. References Abraham-Frois, G., and E. Berrebi () Nicholas () Essays in the Theory of Growth and Distribution (London: Duckworth).
Kalecki, Michal () Theory of Economic Dynamics (New York: Marxism: Essays on Explanation and the Theory of History (London.