chapter  8
14 Pages

Actors and Social Relations

WithBarry Hindess

This chapter discusses the concept of actor, arguing that, although the notion is often misused, there are indeed actors other than human individuals, some of whom play a major role in the modern world, and that social life is irreducible to the constitutive action of actors. After considering concepts of actor and social structure, this essay concludes by discussing some of the implications of general arguments for the place of political concerns and objectives in relation to social theory and social analysis. The significance of that point can be seen if people contrast it with one of the fundamental principles of liberal political philosophy, namely, that human individuals can and should be the ultimate point of reference for decisions about social conditions and objectives. Decisions and actions in particular sites always depend on 'social' conditions, but those conditions will be of the most diverse kinds and there is no essential 'social' unity to which they all refer.