• How is structuration central to the social sciences?

• What are the implications of conceptualizing the relation between structure and agency as one of duality or dualism?

• Why was structuration theory invented and what can replace it?

Structuration provides an introduction to this central debate in social theory and helps to explain the historical processes producing the structures that shape human social life. Few would dispute that social reality is produced by creative human agents operating in pre-existing structural contexts, but social theorists are divided over how structure and agency are related. John Parker contrasts the views of Bourdieu and Giddens, who uphold duality (identity), with those of the post-structurationists, Archer and Mouzelis, who defend dualism (non-identity). The context and logic of the duality arguments are examined, but it is suggested that Giddens' structuration theory is outdated, and the emphasis is placed on making accessible the positive suggestions of the post-structurationist dualists in relation to actual historical cases. The debate about structuration has important consequences for the way we explain the production and transformation of social structures such as institutions and rules, cultural traditions, patterns of regular behaviour, and distributions of power and inequality. Students and researchers across the social sciences will find this to be a clear and accessible guide to a concept at the heart of social theory.


During the last quarter of the twentieth century the use of the term structuration has become routine in anglophone social science. Introduced in 1973 by Anthony Giddens in a discussion of the processes of class formation, it rapidly entered the vocabulary of teachers and students of sociology and those humanities interested in using social theory (Giddens 1973). As an historical phenomenon, the origins and rise to such prominence of the concept, and interest in the problems it alludes to, can be usefully approached as a problem for the sociology of culture and knowledge. Concepts are developed in historical circumstances, by specific people who are socially located in institutional environments and configurations of power and conflicting interests. the invention of concepts and theories is a practice which, like any practice, has its methods, but it is questionable how sufficient these are to explain what is produced by using them. Theoretical reasoning is not sufficient to explain what it is used to produce. the approach taken here is that reason is not sufficiently powerful to secure its independence from non-rational forces which also shape theoretical developments. To explain the origin of the concept of 'structuration' we must refer to such 'external' forces, in particular the forces of the emotions and a whole catalogue of possible social interests (Kilminster 1991; Clegg 1992). These are forged and reforged in the relentlessness of social competition. It will help us get to grips with the concept if we approach it from the point of view of the sociology of culture, treating it as an object of contested cultural value. This will require using a battery of sociological concepts . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.