Structure Agency Debate

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The Structure-Agency Debate provides an understanding to the attitudes towards police work shown by Captain Louis de Koster as well as his actions in the extract from Altbeker’s (2005) The Dirty Work of Democracy. This short essay will depict how I understood structure and agency to be taking place in de Koster’s context. Structure is the one extreme position in the Structure-Agency Debate whereby it is believed that a person is shaped by different elements of society such as social institutions namely family, schooling and religion (just to name a few) (van Huysteen, 2003). Structure is also referred to as the “society-first theory” (van Huysteen, 2003) which is practiced in “networks of recurring patterns in which people behave in routine situations” stated by Berger and Berger (1976: 17). In this extract structure can be found in the attitudes and actions shown by de Koster. Racism is one of the attitudes that de Koster shows because he feels that white people are at less of a chance to get a job that is of high command because of the affirmative action which he sees as “reverse racism” (Altbeker, 2005). Although de Koster has a somewhat racist attitude towards police work, he is efficient because he knows that according to society police work is viewed as efficient therefore he shows this through his actions because he feels that he is entitled to do the work and do it properly although he can be seen as less aggressive and shows this by not actually using violence to get the answers out of the people who know the criminal they are looking for therefore this can be seen as de Koster just doing his job just to do it (Altbeker, 2005). Van Huysteen (2003) stated that agency is the other extreme position in the Structure-Agency Debate whereby individuals have the ability to act, make choices and plans as well as to make sense of their surroundings on their own. Therefore agency also means and is often referred to as the “individuals-first theory” (van Huysteen,...
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