chapter  7
30 Pages

Structuration theory as a world-view

Contrary to the misgivings of some commentators, for example Hirst (1982), Giddens' theory of structuration, as elaborated in The Constitution of Society (Giddens 1984), is an example not of eclecticism, but of theoretical synthesis. As an exponent of synthesis, he shares the sociological stage with other synthesizers, including Parsons (1937), Lenski (1966) and Collins (1993). As Stephen K. Sanderson (1987) has usefully pointed out, eclecticism involves a mechanical juxtaposing of elements of research traditions, whereas theoretical synthesis combines elements in such a way that the recombination produces a novel fusion, structurally distinct from any of the combined components. The new combination then acquires assumptions, concepts and principles of its own, forming a new basis for research efforts. Eclectics, on the other hand, always advocate using multi-theoretical approaches in principle (e.g. Merton 1981).2 Giddens says explicitly, and reasonably in my view, that he cannot see the force of the objection that his work is unacceptably eclectic (Giddens 1984: xxii). His involvement with the various schools of sociology and philosophy is entirely for the purpose of extracting the relevant guiding thread, concept or core insight in order to recombine it with other elements. He writes:

The theory of structuration was worked out as an attempt to transcend, without discarding altogether, three prominent traditions of thought in social theory and philosophy: hermeneutics or 'interpretative sociologies', functionalism and structuralism. Each of these traditions, in my view, incorporates distinctive and valuable contributions to social analysis – while each has tended to suffer from a number of defined limitations.