Marginalization Theory: the Problem with Structure and Agency Theories

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  • Topic: Sociology, Structure and agency, Anthony Giddens
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Julie
 Vulpius
 Gregersen
  Marginalization
 Sociology
 
  Fall
 2011
 

Marginalization Sociology Copenhagen University Fall 2011 By Professor Leopold Galicki Exam option B, written assignment Subject option: 3 – concepts of structure and agency Total number pages: 12 Total number signs: 25.560 Student Julie Vulpius Gregersen CPR: 280887-1958

Table of contents Introduction………………………………………………..... ………………………………………2 Concepts of marginalization sociology………………………………………………………………2 Outline of the debate…………………………………………………………………………………4 Two attempts for a better conception………………………………………………………………...6 Relating structure and agency to the marginalization typology……………………………………...8 How is marginalization a matter of subject and object?.....................................................................10 Final words and conclusion…………………………………………………………………………11 Literature……………………………………………………………………………………… …...12

 

1
 

Julie
 Vulpius
 Gregersen
  Marginalization
 Sociology
 
  Fall
 2011
 

Structure versus agency
Introduction A sociological congress in Tübingen in 1961 manifested a discussion troubling the social sciences for decades. It was a discussion between Adorno and Popper, and later on, Albert and Habermas about philosophy of science and how to conduct scientific research. To its core the debate was dichotominal: Are we as human beings capable of describing an objective reality objectively or is even the scientist merely a subject interpreting a socially constructed reality?1. Parallel and related with this debate, the debates of micro-macro, subject-object and – structure-agency have persisted. They contain questions of ontological, epistemological, methodological and even ideological character. When taking side in the debate one also takes side in questions such as “how is society created?”, “what is reality”, “how free is Man?” and “how can we reach ‘the truth’”? In this paper I will try to outline the two major poles in the debate of structure and agency; structuralism and action sociology which respectively regards human life informed by systemic structures and rational action. I will also elaborate on two theorists who have tried to combine the two. I then will discuss how these conceptions of structure and agency influence and can be understood in relation to the marginalization phenomenon and then I will try to explain marginalization theory in relation to the debate of subject and object. Concepts of marginalization sociology According to Townsend, the definition of the marginalization phenomenon is following: “..the processes that create groups of people who in one way or another and to varying extents are excluded from participation in the main currents of social life, to which they are oriented despite their marginality.”2 Juul Kristensen emphasizes four distinct features of this definition:

• • •

Marginalization is a process The process is unwanted by the individual There exist both objective and subjective importance in participation in given activities, from which the individual is excluded/marginalized



Marginalization differs from total exclusion

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 Sociologisk
 Leksikon,
 side
 504-­‐505
 
 

 

2
 

Julie
 Vulpius
 Gregersen
  Marginalization
 Sociology
 
  Fall
 2011
 

Marginalization is therefore dependent on both the individual actor and society; structure. Furthermore, it is a process and differs gradually from exclusion on a spectrum. According to Galicki, marginalization is trans-historical in the form of moves-to and moves-from praxis we have known since the beginning of times3. As...
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