“Structure/Agency” Problem in the 21st Century: Changing Social Reality and Research Implications

“Structure/Agency” Problem in the 21st Century: Changing Social Reality and Research Implications

Sorokin P.S.

Sci. (Sociol.), Leading Researcher, Head of the Laboratory for Human Capital and Education Research, Institute of Education, HSE University, Moscow, Russia psorokin@hse.ru

Froumin I.D.

Dr. Sci. (Pedagog.), Prof., Head, Institute of Education, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia. ifroumin@hse.ru

ID of the Article:

This work/article is a product of research project implemented as part of the Basic Research Program at the HSE University (project No. 29). The authors are sincerely grateful to Dr. Yaroslav Kuzminov and Alexander Povalko at National Research University Higher School of Economics for their invaluable advice and support.

For citation:

Sorokin P.S., Froumin I.D. “Structure/Agency” Problem in the 21st Century: Changing Social Reality and Research Implications . Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2020. No 7. P. 27-36


This article addresses traditional for social thought question of “structure/agency” relations in the context of current problems of socio-economic development at the global and national levels. The focus is more on general social theory. The key thesis of the present paper is that, in the context of negative trends in socio-economic dynamics and significant increase in the pace of social and technological change, the phenomenon of “de-structuration” takes place implying that in various domains of social life (economic, political, cultural e.a.) structures are more and more subject to change thus opening opportunities for “transformative agency” and creating new institutions that may potentially contribute to positive change in socioeconomic development. However, authors suggest that dominating approach in sociological research is insufficient to address these issues. It is demonstrated that human capital theory and, in particular, the T. Schultz’s idea about the “entrepreneurial element” of human capital, may be useful for theoretical elaborations and practical solutions responsive to challenges in socioeconomic development. Rich heritage of the Russian sociological tradition may help renovate theoretical and methodological toolbox of sociology.

structure/agency; social institutions; current trends of socio-economic development; de-structuration; human capital; Russian sociological tradition; transformative agency


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Content No 7, 2020