Sunday, July 18, 2021

Structuration Theory (Giddens) defined and explained

Structuration Theory by Anthony Giddens is a social theory on the creation and reproduction of social systems, which is based on analysis of both the structure and the agents involved, without giving priority to any of them.

Giddens in his Structuration Theory shows the duality of structures, explains that the structure enables from resources and limits from rules. In addition, it says that social practices are a condition and result of the social structure, because the actors do not generate their practices, but rather continually recreate them, and the social structure is maintained thanks to the social practices that the actors perform within it . He also used concepts such as reflexivity, what had to do with which actors are aware of their actions and those of others in a given context.

The structuring cycle 

The acting agent 

What Giddens calls the acting self-being stratification model is an interpretation of the human agent that focuses on three processes (1) reflective record of action, 2) rationalization, and 3) motivation of action) and on three layers of consciousness. discursive, 2) practical awareness and 3) unconscious motives / cognition.

Reflective recording of action is a process that 1) archives activities and creates expectations that others will do the same, and 2) records social and physical aspects of the settings in which interactions occur.

The rationalization of action is a process by which agents routinely and almost effortlessly have a 'theoretical understanding' of the foundations of their activities.

The motivation of the action is not directly linked to the continuity of an action like the other two constituent elements. It denotes more an action potential based on general plans or programs (projects in Schutz terms) within which a spectrum of behavior is staged.


According to a very generalized view of structuration theory, human action is defined only by reference to its intentions. This means that action can only be considered if there is an intention to do so, since otherwise it would be a mere reactive response. However, most of the acts do not have this characteristic. Many philosophers and sociologists have endeavored to understand the naturalization of intentional activity. For the theory of structuring the interest is not in the intention of the action, but in the unintended consequences of the action.

Giddens considers that a more precise definition of acting is one that does not highlight intentions but rather their ability to do things (which implies power ). Acting is defined as the events of which an individual is the author and which would not have taken place if the agent had not intervened. There is also the case of 'doing something without intention', which is pursuing a specific goal and making other things happen along the way regardless of whether the initial goal has been met. It is therefore necessary to distinguish between what the agent 'does' and what is 'sought'.

Unintentional doings can be conceptually distinguished from unintended consequences of doing. Seemingly trivial acts can trigger events far removed from him in time and space. The further in time and space the consequences of an act are from the original context of the act, the less likely it is that those consequences have been intentional and this is seen both by the scope of knowing that the actors possess and by the power they are capable of. mobilize.

In this way, acting (situated in time and space) has unintended consequences of action that can be systematically fed back to become inadvertent conditions of action . The classic analysis of the unintended consequences of action is carried out by Merton in the subchapter “latent and manifest functions” of his book social theory and structure. But Merton then associates the unintended consequences of action with functional analysis, a step that Giddens rejects.

According to Giddens, there are three major research contexts - distinguishable only analytically - they derive from the connection between the unintended consequences of action and institutionalized practices (social systems).

1) The interest in accumulating events derived from an initiating circumstance without such accumulation not having occurred. It attends to a chain or sequence of events, reconstructed and analyzed in a counterfactual way.

2) Interest in multiple individual activities that are interwoven to result in a pattern of consequences. At this point there is a "composition effect" as a result of the summation of acts, each of which is carried out intentionally but the final result was not sought or desired by anyone.

3) Interest in the mechanisms of reproduction of institutionalized practices. In this case, the unintended consequences of the action offer the inadvertent conditions of a later action within a non-reflective feedback loop (causal ties).

How does it happen that cycles of unintended consequences feed back to promote social reproduction for long periods of time? In general, the way in which the unintended consequences of the action are connected with institutionalized practices that promote social reproduction for long periods of time is through repetitive activities, located in a context of time and space that consequently regularize those activities. for a distant space-time. Then, what happens in this second part of contexts influences -directly or indirectly- on the subsequent conditions of an action in the original context.