Agents, Structures, Narratives

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80 Citations (SciVal)


In this article I attempt to reshape the agent-structure debate in International Relations which has become increasingly confused and fruitless. I do so by first rejecting two things — (1) the agent-structure dichotomy, presupposed in the debate, in favour of the age-old classification of causative factors into mechanistic, volitional and coincidental ones; and (2) the explanation-understanding dichotomy, prevalent in the debate, in favour of the idea of `narrative intelligibilifying'. I also draw attention to narrative as a factor constitutive of agents and structures, and offer a modified version of structurationism, while rejecting a version of scientific realism sometimes associated with it. As to how one form of social structure moves towards another, I suggest that, at its most ambitious, this is a world-historical question, and that how the three causative factors are combined in addressing this question is as fascinating as it is vital for our self-understanding as human beings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-386
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 1999


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