Rethinking practices and structures

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 35 (2):196-230 (2005)
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Abstract

Social theory remains puzzled by the relation between practices and structures, or the link between ‘micro’ and ‘macro’. Grand theorists including Giddens and Bourdieu have gained distinction for their writings on these questions, trying to marry insights and concerns of a ‘micro’ sociological nature with traditional ‘macro’ structural questions including inequality, power relations, and social reproduction. These theorists arguably fail, however, in their attempts to move social theory beyond traditional dualisms. Relevant but neglected contributions from ethnomethodology are introduced and compared to the work of Giddens and Bourdieu in an attempt to identify and outline an approach to practices and structures that more reliably avoids problems of dualism and reification, and at the same time offers an understanding of structures and their relations to practices that can be much more closely grounded in empirical studies. Key Words: micro-macro link • reification • ethnomethodology • Pierre Bourdieu • Jeff Coulter.

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