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Power, Luck and FreedomCollected essays$
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Keith Dowding

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781526107282

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526107282.001.0001

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Agency and structure: interpreting power relationships

Agency and structure: interpreting power relationships

Chapter:
(p.47) 2 Agency and structure: interpreting power relationships
Source:
Power, Luck and Freedom
Author(s):

Keith Dowding

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9781526107282.003.0003

Many debates over the ‘true’ nature of power relationships concern the importance given to agents or to structures in describing those relationships. Those who discuss the power structure or system tend to concentrate upon structures; those who write about the power of agents or power relationships tend to concentrate upon actors. The agency–structure relationship goes deep into many seemingly different issues in very different approaches to power. I argue that whilst the agency–structure divide is false, our interpretation of the world – the way in which we describe it – means we cannot fully transcend the structure–agency divide using natural language. Whether we choose to use the language of structures or of agents depends upon the questions we are seeking to answer and the commitments we wish to make in assigning responsibility. Ultimately, structural and agential accounts can describe the world in non-contradictory ways, though the choice of description demonstrates the sorts of commitments the describer has towards changing the world.

Keywords:   Agency, Power, Resources, Rational choice, Structuration, Structure

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