School of
Social Sciences
___Introduction to Sociology
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Anthony Giddens

 

"The neglect of what any casual survey of history shows to be an overwhelmingly obvious and chronic trait of human affairs - recourse to violence and war - is one of the most extraordinary blank spots in social theory"
(The Nation-State and Violence, 1985)

Work By Giddens  
"Living In The World": Dilemmas Of The Self  

A warning when reading Giddens. Like all sociologists, he seems to feel that he has to use some words instead of ordinary words. So, 'social agents' or 'social actors' means 'people', 'social totalities' means groups of people, etc.


Structuration theory: basic points

1. All human beings are knowledgeable agents. 'Objectivism' fails to appreciate the complexity of social action produced by actors operating with knowledge and understanding as part of their consciousness. People understand the world, often better than sociologists appear to.

2. The extent of people's knowledge of the world is bordered on the one side by the unconscious and on the other by the unacknowledged conditions and intended consequences of action.

3. Day to day life is bound up with the reproduction of social institutions and hence it is a valuable area of study. The context of day to day interaction is an important area of study.

4. The predominant form of day to day activity takes the form of routine - behaviour which appears to outsiders as extreme and bizarre becomes routine after a while, for example with violent or 'evil' behaviour. The Nazi Holocaust was able to be carried out with such murderous efficiency partly because it was for the most part a routine activity for those involved.

5. Constraints on behaviour associated with structural properties of the system are not unique, but are only one type of constraint on the individual person. There are varying degrees of 'systemness' or 'structuredness' in society. The predominance of the nation state leads us to think that societies are clearly bordered and defined when they may not be.

6. The study of power is not a secondary consideration for social science. Power is means to ends, and hence is directly involved in the actions of every person.

7. Actors (people) are knowledgeable. Their everyday sociological knowledge feeds into their behaviour. They have reasons for doing what they do. Because of that, sociology should not be used as an excuse to explain behaviour as due to 'society'. People are responsible for their actions.



External Link  
Gidden's Reith Lectures (External Link)  


These pages were originally written by: Angus Bancroft and Sioned Rogers
Redesigned and updated by: Pierre Stapley - 2010