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.
Chicago Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.
To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.