Individual Lives: The Sociopsychology of Action and Change
The duality perspective, although implicit in the previous narrative accounts, now becomes explicit. By drawing on the life histories of Matthews, Mandela, and Biko, one can consider the value of the model to the understanding of interactions between the individual and society. It is necessary to accept the reality of both social and individual processes. Individualism and social reductionism, taken alone, are inadequate. Second, the individual and society can be made compatible only through an appreciation of the dualities inherent in both. The argument here is empirical, and not unlike the theory presented in chapter 1: individual and society, both irreducible, are also interdependent, and this leads directly to the duality perspective (again see Figure 1).
If we consider first the adequacy of the accounts of the lives of Matthews, Mandela, and Biko that can be offered based on the individualist premise that society is some function of, or is reducible to, individual action, we see underlying all individualist theories the assumption that no society is distinct from that derived from the actions of individuals. Social phenomena are thus viewed as the result of similar patterns that characterize a number of individual actions and which are simplified by observers (typically scientists) trying to describe such commonality. Defenders of an individualist position contend that, in reality, society has no generative power, for it is--always--explainable in terms of (or as the outcome of) the actions of individual agents. If this is true, it would seem that individuals act as