Structure and Agency

Topics: Sociology, Social structure, Anthony Giddens Pages: 3 (1032 words) Published: May 2, 2013
How can the structure-agency debate help us to understand the attitudes towards police work and the actions of Captain Louis De Koster as a police officer?

The structure-agency debate is a debate that asks one “to what extent are we shaped by social structure and to what extent do we exercise agency to determine our own biography?”. I am going to use this debate to understand the attitude and actions of Captain Louis De Koster as a police officer.

Structure is the complex framework of social groups, institutions, culture and processes making up a society, and within which humans establish relationships and interact with each other (Hagemeier,L. Lecture Notes, 2013). These include social groups, social institutions, social relations (ie:identity, power and status), social stratification (ie: race, class, gender, age and ethnicity), culture and social processes (Abercrombie et al, 1988: 228). Agency is the individuals capacity to make their own decisions and choices and to act upon what they have decided or chosen. There are two extreme positions in this debate.These are “individuals-first theory” and the “society-first theory” (Lermet, 2002 :35). The first one argues that individuals choose to behave in a certain way and this shapes society, whereas the second one argues that individuals are taught and brought up in a certain way, following a set of rules and norms. However one does not have to choose between either one extreme or the other but in fact can be a bit of both. The theory of “structuration” developed by Giddens (1979) suggest that structure and agency depend on each other.

Captain Louis De Koster was a thin man with a bushy moustache on his angular face. He had brown hair and skin so pasty and washed out. This was mainly because of the fact that he smoked alot and was also in his early forties. He joined the police force in 1980. He was scared but he loved it because he thought he was doing something for his country. De Koster had a negative...
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