Culture and Agency: The Place of Culture in Social Theory by Margaret S. Scotford Archer

Published by Cambridge University Press, 1992, Paperback.

Condition: Very Good. Lightly rubbed at the tips of the wrappers. Previous owners’ inscription to the first blank and the title page.

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A Later Printing. From the cover: People inescapably are shaped by the culture in which they live, while culture itself is made and remade by people. Human beings in their daily lives feel a genuine freedom of thought and belief, yet this is unavoidably constrained by cultural limitations such as those imposed by the language spoken, the knowledge developed and the information available at any time. In this book, Margaret Archer provides an analysis of the nature and stringency of cultural constraints and the conditions and degrees of cultural freedom, and offers a radical new explanation of the tension between them.

Archers analysis focuses on the distinction between logical relations belonging to the world of ideas itself, and causal relationships belonging to the world of people as they make use of ideas in their interaction. She begins by separating key features of culture which affect people by moulding the action contexts in which they find themselves, and then examines what different actors do in these contexts, under the prompting of their own interests. Finally, she investigates the effects of socio-cultural interaction, which is viewed as the source of cultural change. She suggests that the problem of culture and agency directly parallels the problem of structure and agency, and that both problems can be solved by using the same analytical framework. She therefore paves the way towards the theoretical unification of the structural and cultural fields.

This provocative yet constructive contribution to social theory will have a considerable impact on the field, and will appeal widely to social scientists and philosophers.


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