The Social and Political Economy of the Household

By Michael Anderson; Frank Bechhofer et al. | Go to book overview

1
Individual and Household Strategies*

MICHAEL ANDERSON, FRANK BECHHOFER, AND STEPHEN KENDRICK


INTRODUCTION

In the last twenty years, sociologists, social anthropologists, economists, demographers, and social historians have all (and increasingly) attempted to understand certain aspects of behaviour through the use of the concept of 'strategies' (see for example Bourdieu 1976; Levine 1977; Tilly 1979; Anderson 1980; Oppenheimer 1981; Pahl 1984). Underlying this usage is a wish to escape from the strait-jacket of rigorous structuralism without recourse to extreme voluntarism; the fundamental problem is thus the age-old dualism of structure and action. More recently, a sociologist, Crowe ( 1989) has provided a valuable theoretical examination of the concept, published together with an insightful comment by Morgan ( 1989). Crowe points out the varied ways in which the concept has been employed ranging 'from sophisticated investigations of some of the tenets of game theory to ad hoc usages of the term "strategy" in which little or no attention is paid to its theoretical grounding'. While accepting that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, he suggests that there is merit in taking the term to 'imply the presence of conscious and rational decisions involving a long-term perspective' ( 1989: 19). Morgan ties the concept back to the Weberian categories of action in a discussion of what might constitute non-strategic behaviour, and usefully reminds us that strategies are inextricably bound up with decisions about the use and distribution of resources.

____________________
*
We are very grateful for the support of the other members of the Edinburgh team throughout the Social Change and Economic Life Initiative, and especially for their help in constructing those parts of the Household and Community questionnaire asked only in the Kirkcaldy area.

-19-

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