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Understanding Agency

Understanding Agency
Social Theory and Responsible Action

January 2000 | 176 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
Is human freedom and choice exaggerated in recent social theory? Should agency be the central in sociology? In this, penetrating and assured book, one of the leading commentators in the field asks where social theory is going. Barnes argues that social theory has taken the wrong turn in over-stating individual freedom. The result is that social contexts in which all individual actions are situated, is dangerously under-theorized. Barnes calls for a form of social theory that recognizes that sociability is the essential characteristic of human life. It is our capacity to communicate with each other, and plan for each other's welfare, that makes us truly human. Once this is allowed, notions of "agency", "freedom", and "choice" lose their connotation with free-floating individualism. Instead the embedded character of agency is starkly revealed. This is a model of well-informed and balanced analysis. It will be of interest to students of sociology, philosophy and social theory.

Everyday Discourse
`Choice' and `Agency' in Social Theory
A Brief Digression on Attribution
On Individualism in Social Theory
Transcending Individualism
`Agency' and `Responsibility' in Sociological Theory
Agency, Responsibility and New Human Biotechnologies
Rational Agents in Differentiated Societies
On the Fine Line between State and Status

`Barne's work is remarkable in its attempt to transcend previously held dualisms like causal versus voluntaristic explanations, and to advance a model of social action that can contribute to a possible resolution of the problematic relation between 'structure' and 'agency'' - Debasis Giri, Contributions to Indian Sociology

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