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Understanding Agency
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Understanding Agency
Social Theory and Responsible Action



November 1999 | 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.
 
PART ONE: MATERIALS AND ARGUMENTS
 
Everyday Discourse
 
`Choice' and `Agency' in Social Theory
 
A Brief Digression on Attribution
 
On Individualism in Social Theory
 
Transcending Individualism
 
PART TWO: SPECULATIONS AND EVALUATIONS
 
`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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S Barry Barnes

Barry Barnes obtained degrees in Natural Sciences and in Sociology before taking a post in the Science Studies Unit, in the Faculty of Science at Edinburgh University. In due course he became Director of the Unit and a Professor of Sociology in the University. In 1992 he moved to the established chair in the Dept of Sociology at Exeter University, and is now a co-director of Egenis. Barry Barnes is known for his pioneering work on the sociological study of knowledge generation and evaluation in science, and on the basis of the credibility of scientific expertise. He has also a longstanding interest in the fundamental problems of the social... More About Author

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ISBN: 9780761963684
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