chapter  2
9 Pages

Agency and change

Most attempts within the social sciences to link ‘agency’ and ‘change’ are informed not only by the search for the possibilities of intentional or reasoned ‘choice’, but by an ideal that choice can make a difference. When Giddens famously identifies ‘agency’ with the capacity ‘to have acted otherwise’ he also identifies choice with the power to make a difference: ‘the transformative capacity of human agency is the capability of actors to intervene in a series of events so as to alter their course’ (Giddens 1976: 111). Agency is a necessary condition of intentional conduct and a requirement for the ability to effect change: actors can act against external structures and systems to transform them (Habermas 1987). For Giddens (1984) the power of intentional action and the power of change are ontologically and epistemologically connected in an individualistic ideal of agency as choice.