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By: Simon Duncan | Edited by: Paul Atkinson, Sara Delamont, Alexandru Cernat, Joseph W. Sakshaug & Richard A. Williams Published: 2019 | Length:   5 | DOI: |
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Concepts of agency lie at the heart of social science, for these concepts articulate underlying assumptions and understandings about how, and how far, individuals can act and produce effects. While individuals can choose what to do, they must act within preexisting social and natural worlds that are largely outside their control. This question of how far humans have free will, and how far their actions are predetermined, has been part of philosophical and religious debate throughout history. Social science translated this question into the problem of agency and structure. Any solution, however, remains elusive. Consequently, schools of thought and research perspectives have lurched from one emphasis to the other, stressing either the autonomous powers of agents or alternatively the dominance of pregiven structures.

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