Structure Agency Debate-Emile Durkheim

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Introduction The structure-agency debate has raged on since the start of time. As the subject of sociology has progressed through the ages so many issues have arisen. One can only start understanding texts from a sociological point of view if we can understand the structure-agency debate. One example of those texts is taken from the book called The Dirty Work of Democracy written by Altbeker, A (2005:Extract from Chapter 4). The chapter chosen follows Captain Louis de Koster through working for the SAPS pre-apartheid and post-apartheid. Main Section Defining the Structure- Agency Debate Structure as illustrated and defined by www. hefreedictionary. com/social+structure states the following, “the people in a society considered as a system organised by a characteristic pattern of relationships. ” To my own understanding this basically means that a structure in this debate is where people in society originate from and what their fundamental values and understandings of what is accepted and what is not. A prime example of a structure is parents or the household in which you live. This is where most people are taught from birth about how to act in society and how to accept various other people from different walks in life. Agents of socialisation are the persons, groups or institutions that teach us what we need to know in order to participate in society,” is how Kendall, D, (2013:46), describes what an agent is. I agree with the author because once you leave your home or structure, these agents are there to teach you the norms, values and ethos of the various cultures, races, ethnic groups of society that you need to know and learn to adopt and become accepted into society. Examples of agents are, but not ended at the following; schools, churches, sports clubs, social groups, peer groups and so on. The structure agency- debate has two sides.

Some people choose one or the other while some people remain neutral. The first group are the structuralists and the second group the humanists. The structuralists are the people who lean towards the ‘structure side’ of the debate, implying that structure is most important in adapting and surviving in society. The humanists on the other hand believe that the social agents are the most important in a person’s life. According to Van Huysteen, E, ( 2003:56) “Giddens (1979) developed the theory of ‘structuration’ which argues that structure and agency are mutually dependent rather than opposed. I would agree with this statement because without a structure how does one learn what is right and wrong and without an agent how does one learn what other social groups approve of and disapprove of. Captain Louis de Koster The Captain started out in the police force as soon as he left school. He constantly moans about what is happening to the police force and how so many of the white officers have taken the severance packages for numerous reasons including not working for the black government or they feel they have better chances in the corporate world.

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He also goes on about how incompetent the new incoming officials and higher management are and says that a lot of white police officers stay in one position and never move up the ‘ladder of success’. Captain de Koster compares today’s times as being a cop different to when he started, “but I loved it because I thought I was doing something for my country. ” Altbeker, A (2005:174). Today the Captain doesn’t feel welcome, his colleagues say he is very negative and the pride that was once there has disappeared. Structural Aspects

The Captains structural aspects have taught him how to handle himself in a country suffering through apartheid and now the changeover in government and affirmative action. With the affirmative action being implemented into the police force and junior black police officers being promoted faster than their white counter-parts this worries de Koster. Agency Aspects The Captains agency plays a big role; he doesn’t know how long he will be in the force because of affirmative action. He is able to work with the black police officers in his team due to the basic understanding he received from his structure.

However his agents of socialisation are casting doubts within the captain as he feels unwelcome in his own community and he feels unwelcome in the police force because of his negativity. His management team feels it would be better if he left the force. Captain de Koster feels his neighbours don’t appreciate him or the uniform he wears and cast judgement towards his morality as police officer. The Side of Agency to Describe Captain Louis de Koster I feel agency is most important when describing de Koster because as he progresses with the ‘new South Africa’ things change and so must he to be part of society.

The first thing for de Koster is the inability of promotion in the force and the amount of white police officers who took the severance packages because of affirmative action. His new management feels he is not needed anymore and because of the amount of ‘cop shops’ closing to join others to increase size has only increased the laziness among police officers, there is now a lack of training and the paper work has increased to such a size that the people cannot keep up with it. The author A, Altbeker is quoted as saying the following”…complaining was part of the organisational attitude of the detective services. ’ Altbeker, A (2005:169). This implies to me that as agents of socialisation in the police fraternity that to be accepted you would need to complain a lot and that is exactly what Captain de Koster does. His social agency skills have taught him how to handle the criminals and the witnesses accordingly and not to his disadvantage. While he can use the witnesses he feels that they are not willing to help but because he has faith and a small belief in society he says miracles do happen and that could be the start that the Captain has a renewed faith in society.

Conclusion Captain de Koster complains and moans a lot about his job and the dissatisfaction of working in the force. This is brought on by the change in agents of socialisation and the amount of black senior cops being put into charge. As we can see a change in agents or structure in one’s life we can either have a positive or negative affect to it as illustrated by Captain de Koster. It is up to the individual to either go with the flow and accept the change or ignore it and hope you are not ostracised from your structure or your agents.

Reference List 1. Altbeker, A, 2005, the Dirty Work of Democracy, Jonathan Ball Publishers, Johannesburg 2. The Free Dictionary, www. thefreedictionary. com/social+structure Downloaded 1 March 2013 3. Kendall, D, 2013, Sociology in Our Times, Ninth edition, Asia: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning (extract from Chapter 4) 4. Van Huysteen, E, 2003, Strucutre and Agency: The Social Construction of Identity, Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand

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Structure Agency Debate-Emile Durkheim. (2016, Oct 02). Retrieved from

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