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Re-conceptualising the concept of agency in the structure and agency dialectic: habitus and the unconscious

Akram, Sadiya (2010)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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While the human agent has the capacity for consciousness, intentionality and reflexivity, the same agent must also be affected by the social and political world in which she lives: herein lies the essence of the structure and agency debate. This thesis argues that while realists are in principle committed to a dialectical relationship between structure and agency, there is much dissonance between this commitment and the concepts of agency that they develop. I highlight the exclusion of the unconscious from realist notions of agency and argue that this oversight serves to unbalance the dialectic between structure and agency. The concepts of agency developed by Margaret Archer and Colin Hay are examined and, in varying degrees, both are shown to neglect the unconscious within a dialectical approach. Anthony Giddens is shown to develop a much improved concept of agency, which includes a notion of the unconscious, however, his rejection of the independent causal powers of structure and agency problematises his commitment to the dialectic. A novel approach to theorising agency is offered and draws on insights from Pierre Bourdieu and his notion of habitus. It is suggested that this re-conceptualisation will provide realist social scientist’s with a much improved ontological account of agency and a broader conception of the nature and scope of sociopolitical motivations which inform agential behaviour. A novel methodological framework for researching habitus and its unconscious platform is also explored.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Marsh, David (1946-)
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
Department:Department of Political Science and International Studies
Subjects:JA Political science (General)
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:1266
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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