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Exploring structuration theory. Giddens and His Critics

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1 Exploring structuration theory. Giddens and His Critics
Giddens lecture 2 Exploring structuration theory. Giddens and His Critics

2 What is structuration theory and how does it work?
Basic domain of social scientific study is neither the experience of the individual, nor the existence of any form of societal totality, but social practices. Through social activities people reproduce the actions that make these practices possible. Structures are not the same as systems - rather 'structure' refers to the rules and resources,which are properties of social systems that allow people to transform social relations 'Structure' therefore is a set of enabling conditions which allow social transformation to take place.

3 System ‘System’ refers to the relations between people that are organised (and reproduced) into regular social practices. It is the repetition of the acts of individual agents which reproduces the structure. This means that there is a social structure - traditions, institutions, moral codes, and established ways of doing things; but it also means that these can be changed when people start to ignore them, replace them, or reproduce them differently. Language is a good example of this process, but also different kinds of social ritual and 'discipline'/or inculcation.

4 Dual structuration ‘Society’ is embedded in, and produced out of, social action. Neither one entity - 'agency' exists without the other - structure'. Agents and structures are not two independently given sets of phenomena, a dualism, but represent a duality. These are in constant motion, constantly impacting upon, shaping and reshaping each other,and this occurs through …

5 Instantiation In structuration theory, social rules and rituals are produced and reproduced at the point of action because… Structure is 'internal' to activity – structure does not have an existence independently of people's conception and experiences of social structures. Thus, structure has a 'virtual existence‘ and this not strictly 'ontological' i.e. a question of consciousness; rather it is a combination of A] traces in the memories of the people who draw on the rules and resources that constitute it B] exists only at the instances in which the rules and resources are actually being employed in the activities of people - like right now in this lecture room.  i.e. the educational system does not inhabit a space outside of all the activities of the people that make up this structure of learning and research.

6 Virtual existence and ontological trust
If structure has only a ‘virtual existence’, how can there be any durability or stability to social practices, ideas and systems? Giddens distinguishes between the 'virtual existence’ of social structures and the observable (real) existence of institutions Social systems and institutions refer to the visible patterns of social relations that have become a routine feature of society by being continually reproduced in human behaviour. Giddens argues that the viability of social continuity lies with the existence of 'ontological security' or a basic element of trust among members. When systems break down, anxiety, anger or disorder may occur (trust relations economy, the market, ecological system, bureaucracies, etc). ·        Trust an element of modern societies but increasingly important as social relations are stretched across time and space in globalised, post-modern societies.

7 Problems with Giddens theory
Giddens is ambiguous as to how the 'instances' of social creation and recreation become enduring and viable WITHOUT just hardening into bureaucracies and institutions. The ghost of dualism still breathes over Giddens' shoulder. It has been argued that Giddens has not so much transcended dualisms but renamed them - social integration (the micro-level integration of social relations) and system integration (the large-scale integration/patterning of social systems) The theory of the 'dialectic of control' borrows heavily from both Marxism and Foucault, but lacks their empirical or theoretical depth. (Marx – ‘class’ and ‘historical materialism’: Foucault on power, sexuality, crime, reason) The idea of 'choice' avoids the enduring problem of coercion and constraint, and, unlike Foucault, he doesn't have a get out clause by formulating an alternative theory of power

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