Antony Giddens is a well known social science professor resident in the United Kingdom and came up with the theory of structuration which we will be discussing later in detail. He is a professor with quite an interesting piece of history in the sense that before he developed this theory from a number of studies in social theory the first one being defining a new idea on what sociology is and representing a two tier approach of both theoretical and methodological approach from an extensive approach of classical literature on sociology. He began by defining a new approach of what sociology truly represents and from here after extensive research developed the theory of structuration which is our main focus of discussion.
The theory of Structuration maintains that “all human action is performed within theframework of an existing social structure governed by a set of rules which are very different from other existing social strata. However as one African proverb says ‘noting is permanent in life, so does the human action which is not permanent and external but it is normally a matter of reflexive feedback. The methodology does not rely on the individual or societal totality but a combination of social practices defined by both space and time. It attempts to reconcile the theoretical opinions eg agency vs. structure, subjective vs. objective opinions micro vs. the macro objectives. Social structure is used to refer to arrangements or patterns which constitute a society as a whole and to ascertain percentage as determined above determine the behavioral aspect of the human being. In defining both the macro and the micro scale, macro sociology may refer to the analysis of these social system by and populations on a massive scale.
It may also revolve around individuals and other constituent aspects of society but on a larger social system which they are a part of Microsociology refers to individual social interactions which is more of an interpretative approach rather than an empirical observation Agency may refer to the capability of the individual to act independently on the background of their own free will while structure refers to the recurrent patterned arrangements which inhibit the choices and opportunities that individuals process. The assumptions of the theory are that 1) social interactions are not all about micro –activity level and on the other hand cannot be explained from a macro point of view.2) repetitive actions of individuals recur the societal structure3) they are neither permanent or unchangeable 4) they inhibit the actions of individuals5) their actions and structure constrain each other in an ever changing way.
The theory also tries to merge the two school of thought discussed earlier about agency and structure whereby social structures make enable social actions while these actions create the very social structures It distinguishes btw practical knowledge and mere discussions and recognizes actors of society as having situated and reflexive knowledge A social system is interpreted or constitutes structure, modality and interaction. Structure as earlier stated constitutes rules and resources authoritising and at the disposal to agents Modality of a structure is how actions are translated into actions while finally interaction is the activity instantiated by agent within the mandate of the social system. In conclusion to structure is that social systems have patterns of social existence that are evident over time and the changing nature of time and space determine the interaction of social structures hence the recurrence of the structure.
James Samuel Coleman was an American sociologist and came up with the foundations of social theory developed from his extensive research of development of social capital through education whereby he had come up with the sociology of education as to how public institutions of learning and individual experiences affect education and its outcomes and also had undertaken to do a survey on the Equality of Educational opportunity whereby he stated that school funding had little effect on the student achievement rather it would be prudent for the government to enhance school to determine student background and social economic status rather than determining educational results by the school resources. The research also found that socially disadvantaged black students performed better in integrated school thus advocated for equal opportunities in the school system, also he determined that the upper black students scored higher grades than the same white students in the same range of points and thus there was very little evidence to support racist arguments. These tests were inculcated not to test the level of intelligence rather to determine the ability to learn in the American environment.
Education therefore is understood as a means of betterment and overcoming challenges to acquire social status and wealth and also where students engage in developing their wholesome self according to their potential and needs. As time evolved and the world had valid experiences e.g. war and industrialization it proved with no doubt that there was need for technologically-skilled labour and that it was important for one to acquire education to enable this regardless of once social status but research proved otherwise that education could only achieve limited social mobility and that schooling systems only emphasized on class stratification and discrimination.
Pierre Bourdieu, a social theorist who came up with the theory of social production which refers to processes that create and maintain features of a given social structure over a period of time. He researched on the collision between structure and agency put applied it practically in a class setting in that he observed that objective structures determine once chances through habits where they accommodate this structures thus once class position does not determine once life s chances. He played with the idea of non financial social assets to determine the differences in student outcomes for different classes and determined that tension amongst conservative reproduction and innovative production of knowledge and experience is accelerated by considerations of which cultural past is to be replicated in school. He concluded that it’s the culture of the dominant groups that is inculcated in schools and hence social reproduction. He concluded that those who processed this culture would obtain educational capital and the benefits that followed this in form of qualifications it was therefore difficult for children to succeed since they had to achieve education as a transformed being which was against their instinct and expectations.
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In conclusion Bourdieu s summary proved how objective structures play in obtaining individual achievement in school but allows for individual agency to conquer barriers. In merging both Coleman theories and Bourdie is that the faster a person or a student is able to integrate into the dominant system the more he/she is able to produce the required results as opposed to going against the system as characterized by the research done by Coleman whereby the black students were able to produce better results by the virtue of the fact that they were able to integrate into the dominant white system and dominate with ease. The white folks would not withstand this and therefore had to transfer their children to other schools. The backgrounds of the three writers is similar in the sense that they undertook research to determine persistent problem and phenomena and come up with theory that has been proved over a period of time though they are in different locations and time where some of the theorists were in the United Kingdom, US and France.
Antony giddens theory of structure and agency was initially based on the micro sociology that created a basis for the macrosociology.He began by looking at the individual behavior of a person and how his everyday choices are characterized by the overall societal environment. This was more the reason why he said of security in conformation since one is only living in tried and tested waters and does not want to move from the existing/the social structure he inhibits to a different or try a whole new experience He did not go into the practical experience of the theory as we are going to analyse.Also it may be difficult to determine whether we use either macro or micro point of view as social interactions are not all about micro –activity level and on the other hand cannot be explained from a macro point of view.
In both theorists Coleman and Pierre we note they did a research on a population of students undertaking a common universal education and therefore for them it would be difficult to apply a micro sociology point of view since an individual situation varies due to many unsimilar factors but as we group many of the students bound by a similar factor eg color we are able to obtain a conclusive derivation of the state of affairs as compared to another different group.
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Antony Giddens used scientific method of research whereby he observed and made conclusions. He used the principle of positivism whereby that the only authentic knowledge is based on sense experience and positive verification. They reject metaphysical interpretation and produce a theory that can be actually proved and tested and it is evident since Pierre was able to apply it to the educational point of view and was able to come up with a theory that explained the variance in school performance.
Pierre used statistical interpretation whereby together with Coleman though on separate occasions sampled students and from a general response came with conclusions and theories .Pierre inculcated Anthony Giddens theory of structure and agency and used the information to come up with the theory of social production to explain a phenomena that Coleman also confirmed in his research. This is the method of anti-positivism.
Giddens theory wanted to explain why society behaves as it does and why there can never be a crisis in the behavior of people and that difference in behavior is based on the social structure that has characterized his upbringing. This goes to explain a case scenario of two different people .One is brought up in a stable family while the other in violent family that believes in violence to women. The one brought up in a stable home is likely to have a stable family in future due to the fact of the structure and also even though he may be violent in nature ,his violence may never actually materialize especially to women because the choices that he makes are influenced by the structures that he was brought up in.
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Pierre wanted to explain why social structures never change once they are instituted if they do change; they do so by the virtue of the fact they bow out to superior structures. This goes to explain the wise saying that if you go to Rome then do as the Romans do. It also seeks to confirm that chances of success that follow conformity are high since as illustrated earlier that black students performed better than white kids since they were able to abandon their cultures and adopt the white culture. Those white kids that were opposed to the culture of integration complained and finally left school for other non integral school but he maintains that decisions whether to conform or not is with an individual.
Both these theories are similar since they tend to explain the same variable which is the base of behaviors of people which is the existence of social structures and agency. On the other hand however they are different in the sense that Giddens did not provide an appropriate example while Pierre went ahead and gave a comprehensive example undertook a research and documented on his findings. Giddens also was not able to fully conclude whether his theory was a micro or a macro sociology theory but dwelt more on the micro part of if Pierre however undertook a research and concentrated on the macro level and sought to explain a phenomena that existed using a predetermined theory.
Of both issues I would say that Giddens provides one since he seeks to explain it from a generalized point of view not as compared to Pierre though he only developed what Giddens had researched on. The theory can even be used to explain the gap between the rich and the poor whereby the rich continue to be rich together with the generations that follow since it a social structure that they inculcate in their children and the lids take upon themselves to learn and apply the lessons of earning and maintaining that wealth. Though no situation is permanent they may decide to deviate from these lessons and take a path of their own to the downfall of their legacy and empire. On the other hand the poor may continue to be poor together with their generations due to the structures that have been inculcated in and their choice to continue being poor but may decide to deviate and look for wealth thus the environment being the structure while the choices being the agency.