Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Reflexivity Contra Structuration

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Reflexivity Contra Structuration

Article excerpt


This paper argues that Giddens recent writings on reflexivity and modernity fundamentally contradict the underlying paradigm of agency and structure -- the duality of structure -- that he has developed since the 1970s. Whilst many critics of Giddens' writings on reflexivity have focused on his relative neglect of power, they have overlooked the emerging contradictions with his overall analysis of agency and structuration that I argue lie at the root of these problems in his recent writings. The arguments of dualist critics of Giddens' structuration theory such as Archer and Mouzelis are developed and applied to his recent writings on reflexive modernization. The analysis of late modernity and self-reflexivity requires recognition of the temporal non-correspondence of structure and agency that is not possible under the assumptions of structuration theory.


Cet article fait valoir le fait que les rdcents ecrits de Giddens sur la reflexivite et Ia modernite contredisent fondamentalement le paradigme sous-jacent d'agencement et de structure, soit la dualitd de la structure. qu'iI a developpee depuis les annees 1970. Alors que bon nombre de critiques de ses ecrits sur Ia reflexivite se sont penches sur la negligence relative du pouvoir, ils n'ont cependant pas tenu compte des contradictions emergentes de cette analyse globale d'agencement et de structure qui -- a mon avis -- se trouve a la base meme de ces problemes dans ses derniers ecrits. Les arguments des critiques dualistes de la theorie de structuration de Giddens tels que Archer et Mouzelis sont developpes et appliques a ses derniers ecrits sur la modernisation reflexive. Il est necessaire de reconnaitre la non correspondance temporelle de l'agencement et de la structure pour analyser la recente modernite et l'autoreflexivite, ce qui n'est pas possible dans le cas des hypotheses de la theorie de la s tructuration.

The Freitsetzung of Agency and Structure?

It is my contention in this paper that what Lash (1994) has described as the "freisetzung" of agency and structure is the key assumption of Giddens' reflexive modernization thesis, and that this assumption generates some significant and irresolvable conceptual problems for his broader social theory. These detraditionalizing processes of late modernity captured by the term "reflexive modernisation" are apparently "freeing" individuals, enabling them to create "reflexive projects of the self." Instead of self-identity being "given" by social structural locations, or traditional value systems, we are now able to construct it for ourselves from a range of range of available discursive resources (Beck et. al., 1994; Giddens, 1991). Giddens' work since 1990 has given us a distinctive and substantial contribution to these debates. One that signifies a new departure in his writings, although he sees it continuing the project that he has developed since the 1970s.

In Giddens' work up to the 1990s there was a sense of a continuous intellectual project, that has often been compared to that of Parsons (Kilminster, 1991: 75; Mouzelis, 1995: 118). Firstly, Giddens' settled his accounts with the classical inheritance, then he dealt with various contemporary debates in class theory, followed by varieties of contemporary social theory (Giddens, 1971; Giddens, 1974; Giddens, 1975; Giddens, 1979). Subsequently he examined the institutional parameters and developmental tendencies of modernity and the nation-state (Giddens, 1981; Giddens, 1985). His most recent discussions have focussed more on the modern self (Beck, Lash and Giddens, 1994; Giddens, 1990; Giddens, 1991). His work in the 1970s outlined a workable social ontology and a unifying perspective for post-classical sociology (1975; 1979), followed in the 1980s by an application of this unifying perspective (1981; 1985). It is also possible to see his recent work as an attempt to apply the structuration approach to the dile mmas of the modern self. …

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.