Conceptualizing Social Agency in Unstable Society:
Between Micro and Macro Levels
Dr. Sci. (Sociol.), Assoc. Prof., Faculty of Sociology, St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia email@example.com
The research was supported by RSF project No. 22-18-00261.
The problem of structure/agency, micro/macro is particularly relevant in times of social instability. Despite existence of certain theoretical solutions, this problem is constantly reproduced at the methodological level. The article aims to trace how approaches to solving the micro/macro and structure/agency problem can be implemented in methodology and what prerequisites for this are created in the context of the digitalized research tools and methods. Approaches to solving the problem of structure/ agency, micro/macro within the framework of new materialism and actornetwork theory, are discussed. The question is raised of how ontological and theoretical intentions of these approaches can be implemented in research methodology. As a methodological tool for solving the problem of these dichotomies, the concept pattern is offered which allows describing social reality in a non-hierarchical manner. This concept reflects such properties of social agency as stability, repetition, generality and predictability. Thus, the pattern removes the structure/agency opposition, and emphasizing structured repetitions or replications. Pattern identification reveals regularities of actions themselves instead of revealing actions limited by macrostructures or determined by individual characteristics of the actors studied. It is concluded that the analysis of social activity patterns allows to interpret empirical data without appealing to entities of different levels and removes “micro/macro”, “structure/agency” dichotomies problem.
Archer M. (1995) Realist social theory: The morphogenetic approach. Cambridge: Cambridge univ. press.
Barbu Z. (2013) Democracy and Dictatorship: Their Psychology and Patterns. Routledge.
Bateson G. (2000) Ecology of mind. Selected papers on anthropology, psychiatry and epistemology. Moscow: Smisl. (In Russ.)
Benedict R. (2019) Patterns of culture. Routledge.
Bourdieu P. (1980) Structures, Habitus, Practices. In: The Logic of Practice. Les Editions de Minuit. Bourdieu P. (2001) Practical meaning. St. Petersburg: Aleteya. (In Russ.)
Braun V., Clarke V., Hayfield N., Terry G. (2019) Thematic Analysis. In: Liamputtong P. (eds) Handbook of Research Methods in Health Social Sciences. Springer, Singapore: 843–860.
Creswell J.W., Plano Clark V.L. (2011) Designing and conducting mixed methods research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Crossley N. (2022) A dependent structure of interdependence: structure and agency in relational perspective. Sociology. Vol. 56. No. 1: 166–182.
Delanda M. (2018) New Philosophy of Society: The Theory of Assemblages and Social Complexity. Perm: Giele Press. (In Russ.)
Deleuze J., Guattari F.A. (2010) Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Yekaterinburg: U-Factoria; Moscow: Astrel. (In Russ.)
DiMaggio P., Nag M., Blei D. (2013) Exploiting Affinities between Topic Modeling and the Sociological Perspective on Culture: Application to Newspaper Coverage of U.S. Government Arts Funding. Poetics. Vol. 41. No. 6: 570–606.
Dudina V.I. (2021) “Reassembling Sociology”: Digital Turn and Searching for New Theoretical Optics. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. No. 11. P. 3–11. (In Russ.)
Dudina V.I. Digital data potentialities for development of sociological knowledge. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2016. No. 9: 21–30. (In Russ.)
Edelmann A., Wolff T., Montagne D., et al. (2020) Computational social science and sociology. Annual Review of Sociology. Vol. 46: 61–81.
Fox N.J., Alldred P. (2017) Sociology and the New Materialism: Theory, Research, Action. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Fuchs S. (2001) Beyond agency. Sociological theory. Vol. 19. No. 1: 24–40.
Giddens E. (2005) Organization of society: Essay on the theory of structuration. 2nd ed. Moscow: Academ. Proekt. (In Russ.)
Herskovits M.J. (1925) Social Pattern: A Methodological Study. Social Forces. Vol. 4. No. 1: 57–69.
Hvinden B., Halvorsen R. (2018) Mediating agency and structure in sociology: What role for conversion factors? Critical Sociology. Vol. 44. No. 6: 865–881.
Jefferies J. (2012). Pattern, patterning. In: C. Lury and N. Wakeford (ed). Inventive Methods: The Happening of the Social. Abingdon: Routledge.
Jensen S.Q., Larsen J.F. (2021) Sociological perspectives on Islamist radicalization–bridging the micro/macro gap. European journal of criminology. Vol. 18. No. 3: 426–443.
Karasev D. (2022) The problem of structure and agency and the contemporary sociology of revolutions and social movements. In: Handbook of Revolutions in the 21st Century. Springer, Cham: 201–217.
Kubiak T., Jonas C. (2007) Applying circular statistics to the analysis of monitoring data: Patterns of social interactions and mood. European Journal of Psychological Assessment. 23(4): 227–237.
Latour B. (2006) We have never been modern. Essay on symmetrical anthropology. St. Petersburg: EU v SPb. (In Russ.)
Latour B. (2014) Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Moscow: NIU VShE. (In Russ.)
Latour B., Jensen P., Venturini T. et al. (2012) ‘The Whole is Always Smaller than Its Parts’: A Digital Test of Gabriel Tarde’s Monads. The British Journal of Sociology. Vol. 63. No. 4: 591–615.
Maigari M.A. (2021) Micro-macro problem in sociology: Towards a solution. Global Journal of Sociology: Current Issues. Vol. 11. No. 2: 98–104.
Marres N. (2017) Digital sociology: The reinvention of social research. John Wiley & Sons.
Pentland A. (2018) Social physics. Moscow: AST. (In Russ.)
Rosenblatt D. (2004) An Anthropology Made Safe for Culture: Patterns of Practice and the Politics of Difference in Ruth Benedict. American Anthropologist. Vol. 106. No. 3: 459–472.
Shevchenko V. (2020) What is wrong with the theory of assemblages? Logos. No. 5 (138): 131–164. (In Russ.)
Sorokin P.S., Froumin I.D. (2020) “Structure/Agency” Problem in the 21st Century: Changing Social Reality and Research Implications. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. No. 7: 27–36. (In Russ.)
Stenner Р. (2012) Pattern. In: C. Lury, N. Wakeford (ed). Inventive Methods: The Happening of the Social. Abingdon: Routledge.
Tinati R., Halford S., Carr L., Pope C. (2014) Big Data: methodological challenges and approaches for sociological analysis. Sociology. A journal of BSA. Vol. 48. No. 4: 663–681.
Zerubavel E. (2007) Generally Speaking: The Logic and Mechanics of Social Pattern Analysis. Sociological Forum. Vol. 22: 131–145.