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Structure and Agency

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How can the structure-agency debate help us to understand the attitudes towards police work and the actions of Captain Louis De Koster as a police officer? The structure-agency debate is a debate that asks one “to what extent are we shaped by social structure and to what extent do we exercise agency to determine our own biography? ”. I am going to use this debate to understand the attitude and actions of Captain Louis De Koster as a police officer.

Structure is the complex framework of social groups, institutions, culture and processes making up a society, and within which humans establish relationships and interact with each other (Hagemeier,L.

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Lecture Notes, 2013). These include social groups, social institutions, social relations (ie:identity, power and status), social stratification (ie: race, class, gender, age and ethnicity), culture and social processes (Abercrombie et al, 1988: 228). Agency is the individuals capacity to make their own decisions and choices and to act upon what they have decided or chosen.

There are two extreme positions in this debate. These are “individuals-first theory” and the “society-first theory” (Lermet, 2002 :35). The first one argues that individuals choose to behave in a certain way and this shapes society, whereas the second one argues that individuals are taught and brought up in a certain way, following a set of rules and norms. However one does not have to choose between either one extreme or the other but in fact can be a bit of both. The theory of “structuration” developed by Giddens (1979) suggest that structure and agency depend on each other.

Captain Louis De Koster was a thin man with a bushy moustache on his angular face. He had brown hair and skin so pasty and washed out. This was mainly because of the fact that he smoked alot and was also in his early forties. He joined the police force in 1980. He was scared but he loved it because he thought he was doing something for his country. De Koster had a negative attitude towards the work times of policing. It was dangerous, and he had a very slim chance of being promoted. any white officers left the force and that troubled him and made him think what he was doing there, but he loved being a police. he enjoyed what he did and was dedicated to his job. His attitude to the now, more black police force, was very negative. He complaind about how they are not dedicated, not ordely, had no management skills , no training or experience and do not even know what they are doing. He was part of the redeployment and was sent to work at a police station after being a senior officer in one of the specialised units.

He did not enjoy working there because the resources were not available or enough and he was looked down at. He felt unappreciated and unwanted. Most of the officers thought he was too negative and didn’t take his crap. De Koster was a fair officer and disliked some of the laws he had to follow such as having to barge into some ones house and arrest them. He really enjoyed being a police man and still had hope of pursuing his career. Structure can explain the actions and attitudes of De Koster in several ways.

Race and History of South Africa play a big part in his attitude. During apartheid, times were tough for black people and whites had it easier. Now that the roles are reversed and the black people have power, he is finding it harder on himself considering that many of his fellow white officers left due to the change in rule. The status of a white man during apartheid was very high and meant alot in society, but now it does not have as much meaning. He feels unwelcomed and unappreciated in his community because of his race.

The black officers still have the apartheid frame of mind and so are not all very welcoming to him. Agency can also help us understand his attitudes. De Koster chooses to be a negative person. This is because he is pissed off at the expectations about careers and earnings. Another reason why he is negative is because before when white officers were incharge everything was perfectly organised and complete, and he was used to it being in order for quite some time, and now that there is black officers incharge there is unorganisation and nothing gets done properly.

He also choose to stay behind and pursue his passion of being an officer, unlike his other colleagues’ who left simply because of power change. I think that it is not only social structure that shapes us but also agency because if we did not choose what we agree with and disagree with, the norms of everyday life would be the same and nor forever changing as they are today. I support Giddens idea of structuration because even though we are taught the different norms and rules as we grow up, we choose what we would like to accept and what we would like to reject.

In the debate I stand inbetween structure and agency because even though i was taught values and what i am expected to do and what not to do, i am free to act and make my own life desicions and choices because ultimately i am writing my own biography! (Haralambous,2000 :837). De Koster too stands inbetween structure and agency because even though he is supposed to act and behave in a certain way, he makes his own choices and decisions, lives with and follows them. Structure-agency debate can help one to understand why people act the way they do.

And i think majority of the time, people stand in the middle or the debate and very rarely do we find them at the extreme ends. ? Reference List Amberaomble et al , 1988: 228. Giddens :1979. Hagemeier ,L. 2013 Structure-agency debate. Johannesburg:University of the Witwatersrand. Haralacubous, 2000 :837 Lermet, 2002 : 35 van Huyssteen, E. 2003 Structure and agency : the social construction of identity. Johannesburg : University of the Witwatersrand. (Word count- 1023)

Cite this Structure and Agency

Structure and Agency. (2016, Sep 27). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/structure-and-agency/

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