'Actors' of Modern Society, The: The Cultural Construction of Social Agency

Journal Articles
21908 small sociological theory

Much social theory takes for granted the core conceit of modern culture, that modern actors - individuals, organizations, nation states - are autochthonous and natural entities, no longer really embedded in culture. Accordingly, while there is much abstract metatheory about 'actors' and their 'agency,' there is arguably little theory about the topic. This article offers direct arguments about how the modern (European, now global) cultural system constructs the modern actor as an authorized agent for various interests via an ongoing relocation into society of agency originally located in transcendental authority or in natural forces environing the social system. We see this authorized agentic capability as an essential feature of what modern theory and culture call an 'actor,' and one that, when analyzed, helps greatly in explaining a number of otherwise anomalous or little analyzed features of modern individuals, organizations, and states. These features include their isomorphism and standardization, their internal decoupling, their extraordinarily complex structuration, and their capacity for prolific collective action.

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