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Power in ModernityAgency Relations and the Creative Destruction of the King's Two Bodies$
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Isaac Ariail Reed

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226689319

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226689593.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 19 May 2022

Agency Relations

Agency Relations

(p.30) 2 Agency Relations
Power in Modernity

Isaac Ariail Reed

University of Chicago Press

This chapter develops a concept of agency through which to study power and thereby mobilize the vocabulary proposed in the previous chapter (rector, actor, other). Agency is defined as the ability to send an agent into the world and bind said agent to act on behalf of the sender. This concept is developed via a careful interpretation of the work of the sociologist Julia Adams, whose work on principal-agent theory provided the definitive breakthrough to a new theory of culture and power. It also discusses the concept of "project" at length, relating it to pragmatist action theory, as well as to the work of Simone de Beauvoir. In provides a brief, retrospective rendering of the concerns of Karl Marx and Max Weber in terms of agency theory as well. The chapter proposes a fundamental distinction between action and agency – two terms that are often conflated in sociology. Action is universal – it is what all humans do as they move through the world. Agency is highly variable, and subject to construction and reconstruction in particular ways. The process of sending and binding an agent gives both order and dynamism to action in the world.

Keywords:   Julia Adams, Principal and Agent, existentialism, power and control, pragmatism, cultural sociology, patriarchal patrimonialism, critical theory, delegation and domination, rule and rulers

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