Structure V Agency

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  • Topic: Sociology, Social structure, Émile Durkheim
  • Pages : 4 (1156 words )
  • Download(s) : 641
  • Published : November 17, 2012
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Which of the key debates covered in weeks 1-4 is the most significant for sociology? Explain your answer with reference to at least one sociological topic.

The Structure v Agency debate has been one of the most contentious within the sociological world. The argument comprises of whether structure (social systems) or Agency (our own individualistic nature) determine our paths in quotidian life. Giddens takes the following stance "Society only has form, and that form only has effects on people, in so far as structure is produced and reproduced in what people do.” This essay critically evaluates this controversial dualistic argument, in an attempt to establish why it is so significant for sociology.

Giddens is also in favour of Agency coining the theory of ‘structuration’ claiming that “our activities both structure our social world and at the same time are structured by them” (Giddens, 2006:8). This means that people living within a societal structure are partly predisposed to oblige with its various cultural norms, values and rules. However, our individualistic nature shapes and defines this very structure. The structure’s rules are by no means permanent and evolve with time. This doesn't sound unreasonable until you consider just how detrimental little or no agency can be on a person. Restrictions are placed upon us from birth by parents hoping to mould their child into one that conforms to cultural norms and values. These are imposed on us through various actions and behaviors such as gender specific toys and the way both genders are treated. Boys are more likely to be told to hide pain while girls are considered more delicate. Society dictates that there is a cultural life path that you must follow in order to be accepted. Certain aspects of life are pre-planned by those in authority such as your parents or government institutions. Wright-Mills (1959) observes the institution of marriage, stating that “inside a marriage a man and a woman may experience...
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