Human agents and social structures

Edited by Peter J. Martin and Alex Denis

Human agents and social structures


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8172-9
  • Pages: 192
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: May 2010
  • BIC Category: Sociology, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General, Society & social sciences / Social theory, Society & social sciences / Sociology, Sociology


The structure/agency debate has been among the central issues in recent discussions of social theory. It has been widely assumed that the key theoretical task is to find a link between social structures and acting human beings - to reconcile the macro with the micro, society and the individual.

The contributors to this book reject this solution to the problem. For them, both the concept of 'society' as an entity and the freely-acting 'individual' are theoretical fiction. Rather, the immediate task of the social sciences is to take the social world seriously, to understand the ways in which that world emerges dynamically from, and exerts influence on, the interactions of real people in real situations.

This timely collection is not intended as an even-handed review of the debate, but as a deliberately polemical intervention which aims to highlight some of the ways in which its central terms have been misconceived.


"this book outlines structure and agency as a key to understanding the mechanisms of ontology within social science. Prominent social scientists including Giddens and Archer have suggested that the 'Structure-Agency' question is the most important theoretical issue within the human sciences. In dealing with the structure and agency debate, it has been argued, and in my own opinion, it should be recognised as central to the way we study politics and the social sciences in particular."

(Ciara Flynn, University College Cork, Irish Journal of Sociology, 2014)


1. Introduction: the opposition of structure and agency - Peter J. Martin and Alex Dennis
2. The structure problem in the context of structure and agency controversies - Wes Sharrock and Graham Button
3. On the retreat from collective concepts in sociology - Peter J. Martin
4. Structure and agency as the products of dynamic social processes:
Marx and modern social theory - Alex Dennis
5. The two Habermases - Anthony King
6. Pierre Bourdieu: from the model of reality to the reality of the model - Richard Jenkins
7. The production and reproduction of social order: is structuration a solution? - Wes Sharrock
8. On the reception of Foucault - Allison Cavanagh and Alex Dennis
9. Beyond social structure - Richard Jenkins
10. Two kinds of social theory: the myth and reality of social existence - Anthony King


Peter J. Martin is a former Head of Sociology at the University of Manchester. Alex Dennis is Lecturer in the Sociology of Deviance at the University of Salford

Human agents and social structures

Edited by Peter J. Martin, Alex Denis

Paperback £15.99 / $23.95

Hardcover £85.00 / $130.00

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