The Problem of “Agency” Through the Prism of a New Reality: Conditions and Perspectives

Publication type Article
Status Published
Affiliation: National Research University Higher School of Economics
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Journal nameSotsiologicheskie issledovaniya
EditionIssue 3

In the context of a new phase of the evolution of society, characterized by accelerated destructuration, the problem of "agency" requires rethinking. To study the role and potential of individual action in the transformations of the social environment, it is necessary to develop new theoretical models and methodological solutions. For this purpose, a critical review of research in international sociology, as well as recent developments of Russian sociologists, is proposed. Overview of theoretical discussions, including developments in the strategic action fields theоry (Fligstin and McAdam), allows to highlight both the achievements and limitations of the modern international mainstream. The importance of the ontological aspect of the "structure-action" problem is shown, which does not receive sufficient attention in international discussions. The article concludes with the formulation of promising research directions at the macro-, meso- and micro-levels of social reality for understanding the problem of agency, with an emphasis on the potential of Russian sociology. On macro-level, more than in the previous stages of social evolution since the second half of the 20th century, there is absence of any single "center of power", which brings significant variety to manifestations of agency. On meso-level we suggest to integrate into research models the thesis about the increasing nature of structures’ instability, which also implies the opening possibilities of practical interventions. On micro-level further development of the thesis of Fligstein and McAdam about the "social skill" is required, which has not yet received empirical operationalization, for which elaborations of psychologists might be useful.

Keywordsde-structuration, agency, structure-action, global crisis, international sociology
AcknowledgmentThis article was supported under the HSE Basic Research program.
Publication date07.04.2023
Number of characters29728
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