What Is Agency? Author(s): Mustafa Emirbayer and Ann Mische Source: The American Journal of Sociology, Vol.

103, No. 4 (Jan., 1998), pp. 962-1023 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2782934 Accessed: 07/08/2010 13:28
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WhatIs Agency?'
MustafaEmirbayer and Ann Mische New Schoolfor Social Research

This articleaims (1) to analytically disaggregate agencyintoitsseveral component elements (though theseare interrelated empirically), the inter(2) to demonstrate waysin whichtheseagenticdimensions of penetrate withforms structure, (3) to pointout the implicaand of research. The autionsofsuch a conception agencyforempirical embedded process of thorsconceptualizeagency as a temporally informed thepast (in its"iterational" habitor socialengagement, by ual aspect) but also orientedtoward the future a "projective" (as and capacityto imaginealternative possibilities) towardthepresent (as a "practical-evaluative" capacityto contextualize past habitsand future projectswithinthe contingencies the moment). of strain The concept agencyhas becomea sourceofincreasing of and confusion in social thought. Variantsof action theory, and normative theory, and resuspolitical-institutional analysishave defended, attacked, buried, and citatedthe conceptin oftencontradictory overlapping ways. At the centerof the debate, the termagencyitselfhas maintainedan elusive, albeitresonant, vagueness;ithas all too seldominspired systematic analythe long listof termswithwhichit has been associated:selfsis, despite hood, motivation, will, purposiveness, intentionality, choice, initiative, in to freedom, creativity. and Moreover, thestruggle demonstrate inthe of have failedto disterpenetration agencyand structure, manytheorists
1 Thisis a fully coauthored article. Earlier drafts werepresented thePaul F. Lazarsat the on feldCenter theSocialSciences ColumbiaUniversity, Workshop Politics, for at and Protest New YorkUniversity, Colloquium Culture at the on and Politics Power, at theNew Schoolfor SocialResearch, meeting theAmerican the of AssoSociological at and at ciation Los Angeles, variousseminars theNew SchoolforSocial Research in We the for and Princeton forums University. wouldliketothank participants those their useful We comments. wouldalso liketothank Bernard many Jeffrey Alexander, Barber,RichardBernstein, Donald Black, Mary Blair-Loy, David Gibson,Chad Goldberg, Jeff Goodwin,Michael Hanagan, Hans Joas,MicheleLamont,Edward MichaelMuhlhaus, Lehman,CalvinMorrill, Shepley Orr,Margarita Palacios,Mimi Diane Vaughan, Loic Wacquant, CharlesTilly, and Harrison White their for Sheller, many illuminating insights, criticisms, suggestions. and Direct correspondenceMusto tafaEmirbayer, of New SchoolforSocial Research, Fifth 65 Department Sociology, Avenue,New York,New York 10003.

.50 0002-9602/98/10304-0004$02

? 1998by The University Chicago.All rights of reserved.


AJS Volume 103 Number4 (January1998): 962-1023

Agency tinguish agencyas an analyticalcategory its own right-with distincin tivetheoretical dimensions temporally and variablesocial manifestations. The resulthas been a flatand impoverished conception that,whenit escapes theabstractvoluntarism rationalchoicetheory, of tendsto remain so tightly bound to structure thatone loses sightof thedifferent ways in whichagencyactuallyshapes social action. recentattempts theorize We argue thateach of the mostsignificant to has In agency neglected crucialaspectsoftheproblem. distinguishing (and showingthe interplay) betweendifferent dimensions agency,we seek of to go beyondthesevariousone-sidedpointsof view. "Theorists pracof tice" such as PierreBourdieu and Anthony Giddens,forexample,have given selectiveattention the role of habitusand routinized to practices; theirperspective American (perhapsthe dominantone in contemporary and taken for sociology)sees human agency as habitual, repetitive, in granted-a view sharedby ethnomethodologists, institutionalists new and organizational theory, manyothers. Alternative approacheshave similarly reliedupon one-sided conceptions agency;forexample, of traditions as different from one another rationalchoicetheory as and phenomenologyhave stressed goal seeking and purposivity, whiletheories publicity of as and communication, well as certain feminist theories, have overemphasized deliberation and judgment.While routine, purpose,and judgment all constitute important dimensions agency,none by itself of capturesits fullcomplexity. when one or another conflated is Moreover, withagency itself, lose a sense of the dynamicinterplay we among thesedimensions of and of how this interplay varies withindifferent structural contexts action. Our immediate aimsin thisarticle, are then, threefold: to analytically (1) elements(even though disaggregate agency into its several component theseare clearly interrelated the empirically), to demonstrate different (2) of with waysin whichthedimensions agencyinterpenetrate diverseforms of structure, (3) to pointout theimplications such a differentiated and of of conception agencyforempiricalresearch. our is Theoretically, centralcontribution to begin to reconceptualize human agencyas a temporally embeddedprocessof social engagement, informed thepast (in itshabitualaspect),but also oriented by towardthe future a capacityto imaginealternative and towardthe (as possibilities) present(as a capacityto contextualize past habits and futureprojects the of The agenticdimension social of within contingencies themoment). in actioncan onlybe captured itsfullcomplexity, argue,ifit is analytiwe we callysituatedwithintheflowof time.More radically, also arguethat the structural contextsof action are themselvestemporalas well as relationalfields-multiple,overlappingways of orderingtime toward 963

American Journalof Sociology which social actors can assume different simultaneous agenticorientations.Since social actorsare embeddedwithinmanysuch temporalities at once,theycan be said to be oriented towardthe past,the future, and thepresent anygivenmoment, at although they maybe primarily oriented toward one or anotherof these withinany one emergent situation.As actorsmove withinand among thesedifferent unfolding contexts, they switch between (or "recompose")theirtemporalorientations-as constructed within and by meansofthosecontexts-and thusare capable of changingtheirrelationship structure. to We claim that,in examining we changesin agenticorientation, can gain crucialanalytical leveragefor of and charting varying degrees maneuverability, inventiveness, reflective choiceshownby social actorsin relation theconstraining enabling to and contexts action. of Most broadly, guiding in our concerns thisarticleare moraland practical in nature.We contendthatreconceptualizing agencyas an internally complextemporaldynamicmakes possible a new perspective upon the How are social actors,we age-oldproblemof freewill and determinism. ask, capable (at least in principle)of critically evaluating and reconstructing conditions their the of own lives?If structural are contexts analytically separable from(and stand over against) capacities forhuman agency, how is it possibleforactorseverto mediateor to transform their own relationships thesecontexts? to Without the disaggregating concept of agencyintoits mostimportant we analyticaldimensions, cannotever hope to findsatisfactory answersto thesequestions.The keyto grasping the dynamicpossibilities human agencyis to view it as composedof of orientations the variableand changing within flowoftime.Onlythenwill itbe clearhow thestructural of environments actionare bothdynamically humanagency-by actorscapable sustainedby and also alteredthrough of formulating and realizing even ifonlyin projectsforthe future them, in small part,and withunforeseen outcomes, the present. THEORIZING AGENCY Many of the tensionsin present-day conceptions human agencycan of be tracedback to the Enlightenment instrumental debate over whether or rationality moraland norm-based actionis thetruest expression huof man freedom. Teleologicaland instrumentalist conceptions actionfuof eled the philosophical of individualism the earlyEnlightenment, which, in whilestillgrounded thereligious of allowed forthe morality thetimes, of as invention theindividual a "free subsequent agent"able tomakerational choices for (him)self and society(Lukes 1973). With JohnLocke's of (1978) rejection the bindingpower of tradition, locationof beliefs his in individual and of in experience, hisgrounding society thesocialcontract 964

Agency a of betweenindividuals, new conception agencyemergedthataffirmed in the capacityof human beingsto shape the circumstances whichthey live. This faithsubsequently sustaineda long line of social thinkers, inand JohnStuart Adam Smith, cluding Jeremy Bentham, Mill,and embedded agencyin an individualist and calculativeconception actionthat of stillunderlies manyWesternaccountsof freedom and progress. In responseto this associationof freedom with rationalself-interest, otherEnlightenment thinkers, mostnotably Jean-Jacques Rousseau, anticipatedthe laterRomanticsby exploring insteadsuch alternative conas and moralwill,of a ceptionsof freedom the ascendancyof conscience Theirperspective underscored importance the of self-legislating morality. the transcendental as reason. imagination well as that of instrumental These two pointsof view both foundtheirway into Immanuel Kant's as (1965, 1956,1951)critical philosophy, whichsaw freedom normatively grounded individualwill,governedby the categorical imperative rather thanby material all into necessity interest). (or Kant bifurcated ofreality two opposingorders:the conditionaland the normative, and necessity freedom-the latterconceivedof as the pure unconditioned activity of autonomousmoralbeings.His rendering the ancientquestionof free of will versusnecessity became in classical sociologicaltheory pointof the for norm-oriented action-in condeparture a concernwithnonrational to tradistinction the rationalinstrumental action emphasizedby economisticanalystsof society(Habermas 1984-89; Munch 1981, 1994). In Hans Joas's (1993, p. 247) words,"As a safeguard againstthe utilitarian of the of dangersofthetheory rational action, founding theorists sociology to moralaction."In thisline, [had] recourse Kant and his notionof free, of theearlyactiontheory TalcottParsonscan be read as a Kant-inspired the to and attempt synthesize rational-utilitarian nonrational-normative dimensions action.In The Structure Social Action, example,Parof for of sons (1968,p. 732) arguedthat"conditions may be conceivedat one pole, rulesat another, as ends and normative means and effort theconnecting link betweenthem."Agency, Parsons,was capturedin the notionof for as thatachieves,in Kantianterminology, interpenetrathe effort, theforce of means-ends and tion rationality categorical obligation. Parsons's earlyattention the temporaldimensionof action (subseto discardedin his laterstructural-functionalist also remained quently work) Kantiandualisms.He notedthatall social action,whether caughtwithin in "An act is always instrumental normative, teleological structure: or is a processin time .... The conceptend always impliesa future reference, and whichwould not come to a statewhichis . . . not yetin existence, if intoexistence something were notdone about it by the actor"(Parsons on 1968,p. 45). In noneofhis writings, theother hand,did Parsonselaborate a fullytemporaltheory agency(or, indeed,of structure): of agency 965

American Journalof Sociology remained "outside" time(as in Kant's own conception the"uncondiof of remaineda spatial category rather than (also) a tioned"), while structure in temporal construction. Moreover, none of his writings Parsonsdedid to vote much systematic attention disaggregating crucialconceptof the effort itself-to openingup the"black box" of human agency. Agencyin Social Theory In explicit dialoguewithParsonian(and Kantian)theories agency, of both Alexanderhave recently JamesColeman and Jeffrey presented attempts to join instrumental normative and approaches,although withstrikingly different results. to Responding thedisappearanceof agencyin laterverrationalchoiceadvocateshave followed sionsofstructural-functionalism, to GeorgeHomans's (1964) call to "bringmen back in" and to return an in actiontheory firmly grounded thepurposive, and instrumental, calculatingorientations individuals.In his major synthetic of work,Foundations of Social Theory,Coleman (1990) triesto overcomethe Kantian and norms by arguingthat rationalchoice division between interests can assumptions providetheunderpinnings a normative for based theory the socialinfluence. Colemancounters decontextuauponpower-weighted of lizedindividualism manyrational actorperspectives linking by purposat ive activity themicrolevel to systemic interdependencies themacro at level,thereby showingthatactionis always a complexsocial and interactive phenomenon. However,he failsto addressthe problemat theheart of rationalchoice explanations:the (clearlyacknowledged)decision to bracketthe questionof how temporally embeddedactorsactuallyreach be as decisionsthatcan retrospectively interpreted rational.By assuming that"actionsare 'caused' by their(anticipated) consequences"Coleman the (1986,p. 1312)attributes impulseto actionto a means-ends rationality from human experience time.While thisbracketing the of abstracted of does of subjectivetemporality in factlead to theprediction an impressive rangeof social phenomenaresulting from individualchoices,it does not allow us to understandthe interpretive processeswherebychoices are imagined, evaluated,and contingently reconstructed actorsin ongoing by imsituations. dialogue with unfolding The post hoc causal attribution of plicitin rationalchoiceconceptions agencyleaves Parsons's black box untouched.2
counting for the contingenciesand uncertaintiesinvolved in choice making (March and Simon 1958; March and Olsen 1976; March 1978), as well as in attemptingto explore the role of values, norms,and other cultural elements (Elster 1989; Hechter 1992, 1994; see also the essays in Cook and Levi [1990]). However, we maintain that even these more sophisticated versions of rational actor models are still grounded in interpresuppositionsthat preventthem fromadequately theorizingthe interpretive
2 We acknowledge that many rational choice theoristshave made great stridesin ac-


Agency in A morepromising of initiative the analyticexploration agencycan be seen in the recentwork of Jeffrey Alexander(1988, esp. pp. 301-33; in 1992).Although neo-Parsonian a himself manyrespects, and thusinin fluenced the deep structure his thought Kantian categories of by (he continuesto take as his frameof reference dichotomy the betweenthe conditional thenormative), and Alexander advances considerably beyond bothKant and Parsonsin thematizing ways in whichhumanagency the engageswithits structural contexts. is thefirst He major theorist systo of tematically disaggregate concept agencyitself, the probing intoitsinner structure and delineating categories agenticprocesses.In Actionand of Its Environments, Alexander(1988) proposesthatactionbe conceivedof in termsof two basic dimensions, whichhe calls interpretation (further subdividedintotypification invention) strategization. intends and and He by these analyticalcategoriesto synthesize, did Parsons beforehim, as thenormative and utilitarian themas compleperspectives presenting by mentary analytically but distinguishable dimensions humanaction.But of Alexander'smultidimensional theory also goes much further than Parin sonian theory providing insight into precisely thatelementbracketed by Coleman,thatis, the interpretive embedded processesof contexually In actors. whatfollows, builduponAlexander'shighly we usefulcategorithe and zation,whichopens up theoretical space foranalyzing inventive critical aspectsofagency.We contend, however, thatbecause his analysis remainssubsumedundera broadercategory normativity, has little of he to say about invention'sconstitutive features its and, specifically, pragmaticand experimental dimensions. Even moreimportant, Alexander neglects to situate his analysis of agency withina specifically temporal framework. argue,by contrast, We thatagenticprocesses can onlybe unif derstood theyare linkedintrinsically thechanging to orientatemporal tionsof situatedactors. To place agencywithin such a temporal and framework, to moveeffectivelybeyondthe divisionbetweeninstrumental normative and action, we mustturnto thephilosophical schoolthatmostconsistently challenges suchdualisms, American notably pragmatism (withitsclosetiesto ContiIn nentalphenomenology). responseto the utilitarian model of rational thinkers such as John Dewey and George Herbert action, pragmatist such as AlfredSchutz,insist Mead, as well as social phenomenologists that action not be perceivedas the pursuitof preestablished ends, abfrom stracted concrete but thatends and meansdevelop situations, rather within contexts thatare themselves coterminously everchanging and thus and reconstruction the part of the reon always subject to reevaluation
subjective construction choicesfrom temporal of the vantagepointsof contextually embedded actors. 967

American Journalof Sociology flective intelligence. Moreover,pragmatists rejectthe Kantian response the betweenmaterial to utilitarianism condemning false distinction by interests transcendental and values,sinceall humanobjectsand purposes out and values. These basic are necessarily constructed ofsocial meanings premisesallow the pragmatist thinkers sidestepmany of the conunto and to lay the foundations drumsthatdominatesociologicalthought for of of a theory actionthatanalyzesthe"conditions possibility" (Joas 1993, p. 250) forthe evaluative,experimental, constructive and dimensions of of and action,withinthe contexts social experience. perception and phenomenological While we draw upon a varietyof pragmatist in thinkers the sectionsto come,it is the workof GeorgeHerbertMead us the that offers the mostcompelling tools forovercoming inadequate conceptionsof agency in both rational choice and norm-oriented approaches.AlthoughMead is best known forhis contributions social to we and psychology symbolic interactionism, focushereupon his seminal in of (but littlediscussed)theorization temporality The Philosophy the of in for the Present(1932).3 Two insights thisworkare critical our efforts: whichrequirea conceptof timeas constituted through emergent events, of continualrefocusing past and future, and the conceptof human conthe sciousness constituted as through sociality, capacityto be bothtempoin of rallyand relationally a variety systems once. Buildingupon the at work of Henri Bergson(1989), Mead rejectsthe Newtonianconception timeinsteadas oftimeas a successionofisolatedinstants, characterizing in flowofnestedevents, a multilevel radically grounded (butnotbounded by) presentexperience. "Realityexistsin a present"(Mead 1932, p. 1), of is althoughthe immediacy presentsituations extendedby our ability a to imaginatively construct sense of past and future.But Mead also and of movesbeyondtheindividualist subjectivist presuppositions Bergson's theory, which conceptualizestime as an introspective duree, a rather thanintrinsically social phenomenon. conmerely psychological By Mead insiststhatthe humanexperience temporality based in of is trast, thesocial character emergence, of thatis, in the passage from old to the thenew,and in theinterrelated the changesoccurring throughout various situational contexts within whichhumanbeingsare embedded.As actors reconstruct respond to changingenvironments, they must continually
3 We are not concerned here with Mead's engagementin this work with functionalist evolutionarytheorynor with his debate with metaphysical theoristsof temporality. AlthoughMead develops his theoriesthrougha comparison with more general physical and biological (i.e., nonhuman) processes and has been criticizedforveeringaway fromaction theorytoward metaphysics(Joas 1985), he also provides the philosophical core of a temporal and relational understandingof the intersubjectivedevelopment of agentic capacities, which is of critical importance for a theoryof action. For a related discussion, see also Mead's (1938) work, The Philosophy of the Act.


Agency their view ofthepast in an attempt understand causal conditioning to the of the emergent present, while using this understanding controland to in shape their responses thearising future. This processforms coreof the what Mead (1932, p. 76) calls "thedeliberative attitude," capacityto the of conductas these are foundin the "get hold of the conditions future and our organized responses have formed, so construct pastsin anticiwe pationof thatfuture." in Mead pointsthisinsight thedirection actiontheory describing of by how whathe calls sociality-thatis, thesituatedness actorsin multiple of to temporally evolvingrelational contexts-contributes thedevelopment of reflective consciousness. Mead outlinesthreelevels of consciousness, in of condistinguished terms theincreasing capacityofactorsto actively stitute theirenvironments through selectivecontrolover theirown recharacterized immediacy sponses:(1) thelevel of"contact experience," by characof response sense and feeling, thatof"distanceexperience," to (2) in and terizedby the capacityto use ideationand imagery remembrance in of anticipation, finally, theculmination sociality communicative and (3) in interaction, whichsocialmeanings and values developoutofthecapacityto take on theperspectives (concrete of and generalized) others. What one level to thenextis the drivesthedevelopment consciousness of from "awakeningof delayed and conflicting responses" (Mead 1932,p. 71) to in problematic situations one's variousenvironments, increasing field the of choice while extending temporalperspective action. At every the of step,actorsare conceivedof not as atomizedindividuals,but ratheras within nestedand overlapping activerespondents systems (whichwe preferto call temporal-relational theconstruction temporal of contexts); peran spectivesis fundamentally intersubjective process,constituted the by to abilityto hold simultaneously one's own and to another'sviewpoint. Actors developtheir deliberative capacitiesas theyconfront emergent situationsthatimpactupon each otherand pose increasingly complexproblems,whichmustbe takenup as challenges the responsive by (and communicative) intelligence. in of UnlikeMead, we are notprimarily interested theevolution reflecin but thatMead's analysisaffords tive consciousness rather the insight of conintotheinternal structuring agenticcapacitiesand theirdifferent stitutive to relationships action. We agree withHans Joas in his recent book,The Creativity Action(1996; see also Joas,n.d.),thatpragmatist of an thinkers providethefirst stepstowarddeveloping adequate conception of the constitutive of creativity action,conceivedof as "the permanent and reconstitution habits and institutions" reorganization of (Joas, n.d., the Joasargues, p. 24). Such a conception, fundamentally challenges teleological means-endsmodel present in both rational choice and neoit and Parsonianapproaches, replacing withan accountofthesituational 969

American Journal Sociology of of Joas's major contribution to wrest is corporealembeddedness action.4 the theoryof action fromboth its rationalist preand,norm-centered that of suppositions, insisting a conception thesituationally embeddedcreof ativity actionis essentialnot onlyforstudiesof microinteraction, but also formacrosociological for the analysis(and particularly understanding of possibilities whatDewey calls creative democracy). he brackets Yet the in major question that we examine here, that of "large differences the various acts and actorsin regardsto creativity" (Joas 1996,p. 197). an We maintainthatthisis not merely empiricalbut also an analytical betweenthe different dimensions agency, of question:by differentiating we can help to account forvariability and change in actors' capacities in within forimaginative and criticalintervention the diversecontexts whichtheyact. The Chordal Triad of Agency it constructed What,then,is humanagency?We define as thetemporally structural environments-the engagement actorsofdifferent by temporalrelational contexts action-which, through interplay habit,imagof the of ination,and judgment, bothreproduces and transforms thosestructures in interactive response theproblems to posed bychanging historical situations.5 This definition encompasses whatwe shall analytically distinguish of below as the different constitutive elements human agency:iteration, projectivity, practicalevaluation.In broad terms, and thesecorrespond
4ForJoas(1996,p. 160),actionis notsimply contingent uponthesituation, more but "the is of essentially, situation constitutive action" (original emphasis), providing not merely "means" "conditions" preestablished butalso thestructured and for ends habitual patterns response of thatbecomethebasisforthereflective creative and engagementof actorswiththeir changing environments. 'While ourprincipal focusin thisarticle remains different the analytical dimensions ofagency rather thanaction'sstructural contexts, follow we earlier work(Emirbayer and Goodwin1996)-along withSorokin (1947),Parsonsand Shils(1951),and,espeAlexander As cially, (1988b)-in our disaggregation thelatter. we conceiveof it, of

(e.g.,cultural discourses, narratives, idioms) and thatconstrain enableactionby and actors'normative structuring commitments their and of world understandings their
and theirpossibilitieswithinit. The social-structuralcontextencompasses those net-

the cultural contextencompasses those symbolicpatterns,structures, and formations

psychological contextencompasses those psychical structuresthat constrain and en-

work of and patterns socialties(seeEmirbayer Goodwin1994)that comprise interpersonal, interorganizational, transnational or settings action. Finally,the socialof

ableaction channeling actors'flows investments emotional and of by energy, including long-lasting durablestructures attachment emotional of and solidarity. These intercrosscut keyinstitutional secpenetrating analytically (but autonomous) categories the torsof modern social life:theadministrative-bureaucratic thecapitalist econstate, and civilsociety and omy, (Emirbayer Sheller1996). 970

Agency of to the different temporalorientations agency,allowingus to examine forms actionthatare moreoriented of (respectively) towardthe past,the and Such a categorization future, thepresent. givesanalyticalexpression of of to Mead's conception thepositioning humanactorswithin temporal passage, involvingthe continualreconstruction theirorientations of toin ward past and future response emergent it to events.In addition, incorporatesMead's insight thatit is the capacityforimaginative distancing, as well as forcommunicative evaluation,in relation habitualpatterns to of of social engagement intellithatdrivesthedevelopment thereflective gence,thatis, the capacityof actorsto critically shape theirown responsivenessto problematic situations. -The first thesedimensions, The iterational element. of whichwe term theiterational has attention element, received perhapsthemostsystematic in philosophy and sociologicaltheory, mostrecently fromthattradition of thought that Ortner(1984) describesas theoriesofpractice(see also to Turner1994).It refers theselectivereactivation actorsofpast patby in terns thought action,as routinely of and incorporated practicalactivity, to thereby givingstability and orderto social universes and helping sustain identities, interactions, institutions and overtime. The projective element.-The seconddimension agency, projecof the in has altive element, been largelyneglected recentsociologicaltheory, in of thoughit does receiveattention the writings AlfredSchutzand his of choicetheorists. Outsideofsociology, followers, indirectly, rational and, concern can withprojectivity be foundin phenomenological existenand tial philosophy, narrativepsychology, and dramaturgic psychoanalysis, anthropology. Projectivity encompassesthe imaginativegenerationby actorsofpossible structures future trajectories action,in whichreceived of in and ofthought actionmaybe creatively reconfigured relationto actors' hopes, fears,and desires thefuture. for The practical-evaluative element.-Finally, the practical-evaluative element of agency has been left strikingly undertheorized socioby of logical thinkers, althoughintimations it can be foundin a long tradifromAristotelian tion of moral philosophy ethicsto morereextending centtheories criticaldeliberation, well as certainfeminist of as analyses. It entailsthe capacityof actors to make practical and normative judgto ments amongalternative possibletrajectories action,in response the of and situaemerging demands, dilemmas, ambiguities presently of evolving tions. We shouldstressfrom outsetthattheseare analyticaldistinctions; the of all three theseconstitutive of dimensions humanagencyare to be found, in varying degrees,withinany concrete empiricalinstanceof action.In 971

AmericanJournal Sociology of which thissense,it is possibleto speak ofa chordaltriadofagencywithin all threedimensionsresonateas separate but not always harmonious tones.6 the otherhand, we also claim that,in any givencase, one or On It anotherof thesethreeaspects mightwell predominate. is possibleto speak of actionthatis more(or less) engagedwiththepast,more(or less) In to directed towardthefuture, more(orless) responsive thepresent. and below,we isolatethesevariousanalytical each ofthethree majorsections it and examinethe internal structure each. Although will of dimensions dissections withsurgicalpreneverbe possibleto carry our analytical out cision,we aim to show what agenticprocesseswould entailwere one or another thesetonesin thechordaltriadto be soundedmostforcefully.7 of Moreover,we also argue thateach of the threeanalyticaldimensions chordalstructure. three The dimencan be said to possessitsown internal in sionsofagencythatwe describe notcorrespond anysimple, do exclusive and future successivestages of action.Rather, as way to past, present, passage through ongoingtemporal empiricalsocial actionis constructed rather thanthrough and thusthrough what Mead calls emergent events, a sequentiality discrete of acts or stagesofone act. Each ofourdimensions a internal of agencyhas itself simultaneous orientation towardpast, fuand present, all forms agencyare temporally for of embeddedin the ture, flowof time.We do claim, however,that foreach analyticalaspect of is agencyone temporalorientation the dominanttone,shapingthe way in whichactorsrelateto theother of twodimensions time.Disaggregating of thedimensions agency(and exploring whichorientations dominant are withina givensituation) thateach primary orientaallows us to suggest tionin the chordaltriadencompassesas subtonesthe othertwo as well, whilealso showinghow this"chordalcomposition" changeas actors can environments aroundthem.8 respondto the diverseand shifting are Several further pointsof clarification in orderhere.First,we must variable it reaffirm agencyas we have sketched above is a historically that

usage is analogousto Patterson's (1991) discussion the chordaltriad of of freedom. within 'We bracket nowtheaddedcomplication actors alwaysembedded for that are a many different temporal-relational contexts onceand thusmayexhibit projective at orientation orientation within one context, e.g.,even as theyexhibit iterational an to within another. return thisissuein thefinalsection thearticle. We of 8 Lest we fallintothe analytical "subtones," we nightmare "subsubtones" of within is device wish to stress thatthe notionof an internal chordalstructure a heuristic of orientathatallowsus to analyzevariation changein thecomposition agentic and in in whilethemselves tions;clearly, actorsdo notdissect experience sucha manner of also notethat whatwe call chordal theflow temporal structures passage.We should withone another, the are not necessarily harmonious; subtones may be dissonant internal tensions thatmayspurtherecomposition temporal of orientations. creating
6 This


Agency conceptions phenomenon, embeddedin changing theoretical practical and thatassumes of timeand action.Ours is not a universalistic perspective projective, or that all times,places, and personsare equally iterational, it cultural, perand practical-evaluative. Rather, is precisely historical, the so sonal variability agentic of orientations makethisframework comthat theirown relationship to pelling.The ways in whichpeople understand the past,future, present and makea difference theiractions;changing to in contexts proconceptions agenticpossibility relationto structural of influence how actors in different foundly periods and places see their worldsas more or less responsiveto human imagination, purpose,and effort. Mead in arguing thatchangesin temporal orientation Second,we follow in and mayalso involvevarying degreesofinventiveness reflectivity relanot tionto actionand itstemporal-relational although necessarcontexts, ways. (Such a ily,as we shall show later,in simple or straightforward commitment a humanistic, to normative, conception signalsourdeliberate and critical perspective upon social life.)Whilewe claimthateven habitsuch activity ual actionis agentic,since it involvesattention and effort, problemis largely unreflective takenforgranted; actorsencounter and as atic situations the and judgment, they requiring exerciseof imagination gain a reflective distancefrom receivedpatterns thatmay (in some contexts)may allow forgreater imagination, choice,and consciouspurpose. A disaggregated conception agencythusallows us to locate morepreof betweenthe reproductive transformative and dimenciselytheinterplay can sions of social action (Hays 1994) and to explain how reflectivity in eitherdirection, the increasing routinization probor change through lematization experience. of of Third,we wish to stressthatour conception agencyis intrinsically social and relational aroundtheengage(Emirbayer 1997)sinceit centers contextual environment(and disengagement) actorsof the different by that constitute theirown structured flexible social universes. ments yet For thisreason,and also becauseofourdeep resonance withbothclassical one our and contemporary pragmatism, mightcharacterize approach as ways of relational pragmatics. Viewed internally, agencyentailsdifferent is the experiencing world,althougheven here,just as consciousness always consciousness something of (James 1976; Husserl 1960), so too is agencyalways agencytowardsomething, meansofwhichactorsenter by and events. intorelationship withsurrounding persons, places,meanings, in withits contexts, Viewed externally, agencyentailsactual interactions like an ongoingconversation; this sense,it is "filledwith in something as dialogicovertones," a sortof "linkin the chain of speech communication"(Bakhtin1986,pp. 92, 91). FollowingMead and Joas,we highlight theimportance intersubjectivity, interaction, communication of social and 973

American Journal Sociology of of as critical components agenticprocesses:agencyis always a dialogical in whichactorsimmersed temporalpassage enprocessby and through of organizedcontexts action. gage withotherswithincollectively Finally,we groundthis capacityforhuman agencyin the structures of conversation and processes thehumanself,conceivedofas an internal interactions. We possessinganalytic autonomyvis-a-vis transpersonal such as the substanceor entity, conceptualize selfnot as a metaphysical the"soul" or "will"(see White 1995),but rather a dialogicalstructure, as in relational. Our perspective, otherwords,is relational itself thoroughly of all the way down.9We cannotbeginto explorehere the ontology the for as selfor the fullimplications agencyof such categories "desire"(alanalysisof see herea systematic though Lacan 1977).Nor can we present or of or thecomponents structures thisself, elaboratea new philosophical NorbertWiley (1994, psychology, althoughwe can suggest,following process[takingplace p. 210) in The SemioticSelf,that"theinterpretive and thatthis"in turnallows open and free," withinit] is, withinlimits, humansto createas well as to pursue goals."'0We maintainthatwhile contexts both constrain do and enable the dialogicalprotranspersonal of cannotthemselves serveas thepointoforigin agentic cess,suchcontexts possibilities, whichmustresideone level down (so to speak),at the level of self-dynamics. In thefollowing then,we take up in turnthreeconstituent discussion, elements humanagency: iterational, of the and projective, practical-evaluative tonesof the chordaltriad.Withineach of the sectionsto come,we of first review briefly relevanthistory concepts,then analyze from the the of exploretheimplicawithin dimension agencyat hand,thenfinally tionsof each aspect forconcreteempiricalresearch.In the finalmajor sectionofthearticle, stepback to discussthedifferent we ways in which these threedimensionsof human agency interpenetrate with different contexts action. of structuring
I Sucha position doespresent with certain us a difficulty: namely, corporate that actors

suchas firms, states, other or organizational entities cannoteasilybe accommodated within terms such a framework the of unlesstheyare themselves giventheoretical statusequivalent thatof naturalpersons selves(forexamples thismodeof to or of reasoning, Coleman[1990], see Luhmann [1990], and White [1992]). Whilenotaverse in all tosucha movein principle, do notpursue ofitsmany we implications thepages in to come,or grapplesystematically the specialchallenges translation it with that wouldnecessarily entail. 10 It is worth noting thatWiley'sperspective itself is self-consciously grounded the in pragmatist tradition also Wiley1994,pp. 10, 29, 47); fora similar (see perspective, see Taylor(1991),Colapietro (1990),and Gergen (1994).Moreworkneedsto be done, in the to ofcourse, theorizing systematic blockages such"openand free" intrapsychic communication dialogue. or


Agency THE ITERATIONAL DIMENSION OF AGENCY If we thinkof agencyas a chordaltriadcomposedof threeanalytically distinct towardthepast,future, present), and elements (oriented variously thenwhatwe call theiterational dimension appearsas thatchordalvariatone.Although, Mead (1932, tionin whichthepast is themostresonant as p. 17) reminds all experience us, takes place in the present, thispresent is permeated theconditioning by qualityofthepast:"Its presence exhibis ited in memory, and in the historical apparatus that extendsmemory." Past experiences condition present actions"whentheyhave takenon the of organizedstructure tendencies" we (Mead 1932,p. 18). In thissection, examinehow thepast,through habitand repetition, becomesa stabilizing influence thatshapes theflowofeffort allows us to sustainidentities, and meanings, and interactions over time.The primary locus of agencyfor the iterational dimension, argue,lies in the schematization social we of in It experience. is manifested actors' abilitiesto recall,to select,and to appropriately applythemoreor less tacitand taken-for-granted schemas ofactionthatthey have developedthrough Schemasare past interactions. corporealand affective well as cognitive as patterns; theyconsistin the interpenetrationmental of categories, embodied practices, socialorgaand nization. Moreover, they constitute temporal wellas relational as patterns, in recursively implemented social life(Giddens1984).The agenticdimension lies in how actorsselectively such recognize, locate,and implement schemasin theirongoingand situatedtransactions. While thismay take it place at a low level of consciousreflection, stillrequiresattention and engagement the part of actorsin orderto narrowthe possibilities on for actionwithinparticular contexts. temporal-relational The conceptof iteration crucialforour conception agencysince is of we maintain thatboththeprojective and practical-evaluative dimensions are deeplygroundedin habitual,unreflected, mostly and unproblematic in of patterns actionby means of whichwe orientour efforts thegreater iteration term partofourdailylives.We have settled upontheunfamiliar to describesuch activityprecisely because the dimensionof agencyto is whichitrefers themostdifficult conceiveofin properly to terms. agentic The subset of words with which it is colloquiallyassociated-routines, dispositions, preconceptions, competences, schemas, patterns, typifications,and traditions-seemmoreto implystructure than what we comthinkofas agency.This problem also reflected mostattempts is in monly to theorize habitualdimension actionsincetheyfocusupon recurthe of ringpatterns actionthemselves of rather than and thusupon structures, upontheprecise waysin whichsocialactorsrelationally engagewiththose or preexisting patterns schemas. 975

American Journal Sociology of Iteration: The Historyof a Concept In muchof social and psychological theory, habithas unfortunately been seen as little morethana matter stimulus of and response, orientation an humanagencyand towardthestructural thatshifts attention away from contexts thatshape action.Indeed,as CharlesCamic (1986,p. 1046)points in out,a prevailing tendency muchof social sciencesince the early20th century has been to regardhabit as "behaviorthat consistsin a fixed, mechanicalreaction particular to stimuli and [that]is, as such,devoid of meaning from actor'spointofview."The outcome effectively the has been In to removehabit fromthe domain of social action.11 what follows, by in our contrast, key concernis to locate the agenticdimension even the mostroutinized, prestructured forms social action.Even relatively of unreflective actionhas itsown moment effort; typification routinof the and izationof experience active processesentailing are selectivereactivation withinexpectedsituations, of receivedstructures dynamictransactions betweenactorand situation. We followa current thought of (also documentedby Camic) that never did succumb to the aforementioned tendency to conceive of habit as a "fixed, mechanicalreactionto stimuli" (Camic 1986,p. 1046). According thisperspective, to habit entailsmuch morethanbiophysiological institutional) (or processes; includesas well it theelement agency-no less thando the morereflective deliberaof and tive modes of action. Classical and medievalphilosophy.-Some of the earliestsystematic on thinking theiterational aspectof humanagencycan be foundin Aristotle(1985,p. 44), who uses thetermhexisto refer any settled to disposition or state leading to action.Aristotle the distinguishes hexis-sometimesalso translated habit-from mechanical as behavioras such,sinceit In also reflects person'sdesiresand decisions. theNicomacheanEthics, a Aristotle or (1985) further depictshabitsas the basis for"virtues" "excelwhichentaila settled lences"ofcharacter, disposition towardappropriate action in accordancewithwisdom.Habits could not formthe basis for virtueif theywere merely automaticactivity. Thomas Aquinas, too, St. defines iterational the activity his terminology, habitus)as a manifesta(in
" See,e.g.,Camic'sdiscussions W. I. Thomas,FlorianZnaniecki, of Robert Park,and TalcottParsons, in amongothers, Camic (1986,pp. 1072-75).Camic adds thatthe historical reasons this for tendency twofold: theonehand, emergence are on the during thelate 19th of and century Darwinian evolutionary theory ofexperimental physiolthe ogyand,on theother that scientistic" hand, riseduring sameperiod a "militantly of new field psychology. of Betweenthem, thesedevelopments to an identification led ofhabitual action with most the behavioral elementary processes thehuman of organism,akinto thoseofthelowerspecies(Camic 1986,pp. 1048-49).


Agency tionof humanagency.12In "The Treatiseon Habits,"Aquinas (1948,pp. in 822, 824) followsAristotle associatingthe habituswithmoralvirtue: "Virtue a habituswhichis alwaysforgood.... [It]is a habitusbywhich is a personacts well." and social thought.-Dewey (1922) contribNineteenth- 20th-century on utes to thisperspective habit in Human Natureand Conduct,where enerhe describes habitsas "activemeans,meansthatprojectthemselves, waysofacting.... Habit meansspecialsensitiveness geticand dominating and or accessibility certainclasses of stimuli, to standingpredilections of aversions,ratherthan bare recurrence specificacts. It means will" inherently plasas (Dewey 1922,pp. 26,40-41). Habit emerges something tic and educable, ratherthan a matterof mere stimulusand response. This critiqueof behavioralreductionism allows Dewey to elaboratethe for politics, goal of the foundations a democratic social and psychological ones whichshouldbe to replacetheunreflective habitswith"intelligent" generous, imaginative, "whichexperience shownto makeus sensitive, has [and] impartial" (Dewey 1922,p. 194). such as Maurice phenomenologists During the mid 20th century, and Schutzfurther developsuchviews,reconceptuMerleau-Ponty Alfred of intentionality" (Kestenbaum 1977). alizinghabitas a form "prereflective intentionality locatedpriorto languagein thesediis For Merleau-Ponty, mentation meaningin the body;thebodyis conceivedof as an "intenof tionalarc"directed towardtheworld,thevehiclebymeansofwhichcommunication with the world is carried out (Merleau-Ponty 1964, hand,emphasizes pp. 67; see also Wacquant 1992a). Schutz,on the other life of the social (ratherthan the embodied)dimension the prereflexive in a world,finding Weberianideal-types modelfortheschemasand typitheir routinized fications thatguidesocial actorsduring dailylives.These of typifications provide forthe continuity social knowledgeover time; has is it while such knowledge takenforgranted, nevertheless a "highly socializedstructure" (Schutz 1962,p. 75). This focusupon the routinized character thesocial worldalso provides basis forHarof the prereflective old Garfinkel's ethnomethodology (1984), as well as forthe social conof structivism PeterBergerand Thomas Luckmann(1966). of Theoriesofpractice.-In thepresent day,so-calledtheorists practice (Ortner1984) such as Bourdieu (1977, 1984, 1990; Bourdieu and Wac12 thanit moreunderone's control "For Aquinas,. . . a habitusputsone's activity is to to be. otherwise In thissense, have a habitus to be disposed someactivity might but occasion, beon possible or other-notbecauseone tendsto thatactivity every to an readily copedwith, obviousactivity engagein, and it cause one finds natural, in so on" (Davies 1992,pp. 225-26; emphasis theoriginal).


American Journal Sociology of quant 1992) and Giddens (1979, 1984) build upon the insightsof both pragmatism and phenomenology, well as upon earliertraditions as of Bourdieuuses theAristotelian/Thomistic ofhabitusto illuthought. idea minatetheformative influences thepast upon thecognitive, of corporeal, and intentional structures empirical of action.Throughtheincorporation in of past experiences the body,he maintainsthat social actorsdevelop about thefuture a setofpreconscious thatare typically inarexpectations and takenforgranted but nevertheless ticulate, naturalized, strategically mobilizedin accordancewith the contingencies particularempirical of situations. Bourdieurecognizes compatibility suchnotions the of withthe insights bothDewey and thephenomenologists: theory practical of "The of sensepresents withtheories, suchas Dewey's,thatgrant manysimilarities a central roleto thenotionof habit,understood an activeand creative as relation the world"(Bourdieuand Wacquant 1992,p. 122). to In similar fashion, Giddensconceptualizes agentic the dimension rouof tinebehaviorin termsof what he calls thestratification modelofaction (Giddens1979,p. 56). By distinguishing between three levelsofconsciousness-the unconscious, and consciouspractical consciousness, discursive ness-he in effect constructs continuum a betweenthe unreflective and reflective dimensions action.But despitethisnod towarddiscursivity, of Giddensgivesroutinized a practicalconsciousness privileged place in the of the explanation social reproduction, callingroutinization master keyof Such consciousness his theory structuration. of emergesout of a backgroundof"tacitly employed mutualknowledge" (Giddens1979,p. 58), by means of which social interactions reflexively are In monitored. underin the scoring agenticmoment thereproduction structures, also dehe of velops the importantidea of recursivity: structures (which Giddens defines "rulesand resources") reallyonly"virtual" as are structures (parathatmustbe recursively digmatic patterns) activatedwithinsocial pracof tices.The agenticdimension routinized action lies precisely the rein cursiveimplementation structures humanactors."3 of by The InternalStructure Iteration of to We can see thataccording manymajor theorists, habitualand routinized activitiesare not devoid of agency.Here we elaborateupon these in theorists' insights examining moredetailhow agencyworksto reproby
13 Giddens interested theconcept routinization in (1991)is particularly of becauseof hisontological he presuppositions: emphasizes needfor the "basictrust" "ontologiand that cal security" driveshumansto routinize their practices and to give orderand to in stability their relationships, especially the faceof the growing complexity and of diversity modern see society a similar (for perspective, White[1992]).


Agency duce past patterns action.For thesake of greater of specificity, subdiwe vide the iterational momentinto a numberof interrelated components (keepingin mindthattheseblend intoone anotherin practice);each inkindof schematizing volves theengagement a specific of process.Recalling the imagery the internal of chordalstructure, show how thispriwe maryorientation towardthepast involvesdifferent processesofselective recallfrom past experience, whichwe distinguish hereas selectiveattention,recognition types, of and categorical location.In addition, show we how theseelementsshade over into projectiveand practical-evaluative of and thepresent dimensions agency.The future now emerge secondas the the arytonesin thechordalcomposition: future through expectation, memory-sustained anticipation pastpatterns experience repeat that of will in themselves successiveinteractions, allowing relationships be susto tainedand reproduced the overtime,and thepresent through maneuver, improvisational orientation toward habitual practices, largelytacit and whichtakes place in ongoingdialoguewithsituational conunreflective, tingencies. Selective attention.-At any given point in the flowof transactions, social actorsare able to focusattention upon onlya small area of reality. As Schutz (1964, p. 283) tellsus, "There is a small kernelof knowledge in This kernelis surrounded thatis clear,distinct, and consistent itself. of by zones of various gradations vagueness,obscurity, ambiguity." and The qualityof attention at or directed any element "zone" of knowledge is conditioned what Schutz calls "systems relevances," by of developed and past collectiveexperience, over the course of biographicalhistories situations thatrequire attention whichalertactorsto elements emerging of notionof and response.The same idea is expressedin the psychological is whichshowshow the activity directing of attention also linked gestalt, of to unconscious activity processes. Many elements practicalday-to-day may requireonlymarginalclarity consciousness; even the semiobof yet scurezone of habitualtaken-for-granted activity requiresa selectivefoin of required cusingofattention orderto singleouttheelements response to sustaina particular form interaction. of actorsmustidentify Recognition types.-Having directed of attention, in of and predicttheirrecurrence the future; typicalpatterns experience modelsby meansofwhich to do this,theyroutinely construct simplifying or recurrent contexts, theycharacterize aspectsof persons, relationships, takes place events.As Schutz(1967) puts it,thisprocessof "typification" the a of through "synthesis recognition" whichactorsrecognize "sameby withthoseofthe ness,""likeness," "analogy"ofan emerging or experience or past, eitherwithinthe actor's directmemory withina social memory in as objectified various media of communication (see also Alexander match 1988, pp. 301-33). While emergent situationsnever completely 979

American Journal Sociology of assimilate these simplifying idealizations, actorstend to retrospectively procedureby new experiences the old by means of an "enveloping" to or "fits" smoothed are over through of what use whichdifferences faulty Garfinkel (1984) calls theet ceteraclause. Throughthisactiveprocessof to and recognition assimilation, and actorscontribute a senseofcontinuity orderwithintemporally evolvingexperiences. similarities beCategoricallocation.-Social actors not only identify tweenpast and present typesof experiences; theyalso locate thesetypifior cationsin relationto otherpersons,contexts, eventswithinmatrices of and value. These composedof sociallyrecognized categories identity matrices (Levi-Strauss1966; maybe builtupon setsofbinaryoppositions Douglas 1985; Bourdieu 1977; Alexander1988b),whichdelineatephysias cal, social, and normative categories; Bourdieu argues,such homoloschemasby means of constitute of gous systems oppositions transposable can be objectivelymapped. On the which fieldsof social relationships schemasmayalso be nonbinary comand other hand,theseclassificatory networks relationships, of containing posed of morecomplexmultivalent and nuancedlinesofinclusion and exclusion, acceptability nonacceptabilfor ity, within crosscutting contexts action.Although themostpartthese of actorsmuststillexercise matrices unreflective takenforgranted, are and in effort orderto locatecorrectly wheregivenexperiences within fit them and thuskeep social relationships lines. working along established Maneuver amongrepertoires.-As we have seen, the employment of is rather, requires it routines notmechanically situationally or determined; from of While a processofselection practical repertoires habitualactivity. are histories and may be repertoires limited individualand collective by more or less extensiveand flexible, theydo requirea certaindegreeof in of to maneuverability orderto assuretheappropriateness theresponse dimension thesituation hand. (Here theiterational at mostcloselyresembles what we shall laterdescribeas practicalevaluation.)In unproblemthis maneuvering semiconscious taken forgranted, is or atic situations, the resultof an incorporation schemasof action intoone's embodied of On practicalactivity. the otherhand, the applicationof such repertoires remainsintentional insofaras it allows one to get thingsdone through habitualinteractions negotiations or (allowingBourdieuto speak of the As paradox of "intentionless intentions"). Bourdieu notes,theremay be much ingenuity and resourcefulness the selectionof responsesfrom to even whenthiscontributes thereproduction a to of practicalrepertoires, of givenstructure social relationships. of of Expectationmaintenance.-One of the results the variousforms schematization describedabove is thattheyprovideactorswithmoreor whichallows themto preless reliableknowledge social relationships, of 980

Agency dict what will happen in the future. These patterns expectations of give and continuity action,the sense that "I can do it again," as to stability well as "trust" thatotherswill also act in predictable ways (Schutz 1967; Garfinkel1963, 1984). (Here we encounter the subtonein the chordal structure iteration the of thatmostapproximates projective dimension of The maintenance expectations of agency.) regarding how oneself and otherswillact is notan automatic process: one's expectations aboutthefuture can breakdown(requiring whatGarfinkel calls repair)due to disruptions, misunderstandings, changes in systemsof relevance.The mainteand nance workthatgoes intosustaining expectations practicalas well as has ontological importance, allowingnotonlyfora senseofconsistent identity amidstchange(Pizzorno1986;Melucci 1994),butalso forsocial coordinationwithincontingent interdependent and environments. in Iteration EmpiricalResearch The iterational orientation agencyhas alreadyproveda richsourceof of researchquestionsin a variety social sciencedisciplines. of Here we exlinesofinquiry plorehow such research opens up a number intriguing of intothereciprocal relationship-theongoing dialogueor conversationbetween the agency in its iterationalmodalityand a wide range of contexts action. of temporal-relational Culturalcompetences.-Researchbuildingupon Bourdieu's notionof habitusproveshighly usefulin showinghow different formative experior ences,such as thoseinfluenced gender, by race, ethnicity, class backgrounds, deeplyshape theweb ofcognitive, affective, bodilyschemas and whichactorscometo knowhow to act in particular social worlds. through Ann Swidler(1986) evokesBourdieuin speakingofthe"cultural toolbox" of practicalcompetences thatpredisposeactorsto feela fitwithinsome actionsand notothers. Loic Wacquant (1992b)criticizes imthe Although plicitinstrumentalism Swidler's account,his work on boxingin Chiof soundssimilarthemesby exploring how emcago ghetto neighborhoods learned withinthe bodied competences and classificatory schemas first environment of street underlie boxers'subsequent engagement the"pugilisticfield." Likewise,MicheleLamont's (1992) research intomoney, morin als, and manners France and the UnitedStatesexamineshow classificatoryschemas developed withinparticularclass, race, and national influence boundary the workofsocial actorsin articulating tastes settings othersocial and aspirations, well as in distinguishing as themselves from In reactivation scheof groups. suchways,thesewriters claim,theagentic mas inculcatedthrough tendsto correspond (and thus to past experience to reproduce) societalpatterns: "Social structures cognitive structures and 981

American Journal Sociology of thatoband linked,and the correspondence are recursively structurally tainsbetweenthemprovidesone ofthemostsolidpropsofsocial domination"(Wacquant 1992a, p. 14). tendto foReproduction through creativity.-Whiletheabove authors agentic cus uponthe"closeness fit" of betweenthehabitusand subsequent othersoperating a similartradition in emphasizethe conflictual activity, betweenhumanagencyand social reproand contradictory relationships duction.For example,Paul Willis(1977),in his studyof theculturalcreinteractively genof lads,arguesthattheir ativity rebellious working-class of was shaped by and rejection middle-class trajectories eratedcriticism and to of their working-class experience leads,ironically, thereproduction perspective, class position. From a social-psychological theirsubordinate how childrenreproduceadult culture William Corsaro demonstrates of "Socialthe elaboration peerroutines: through creativeand interactive it izationis not something thathappensto children; is a processin which in withothers, producetheirown peer cultureand children, interaction to eventuallycome to reproduce, extend,and to join the adult world" (1984) showsin a famouscase (Corsaro 1992,p. 175).Likewise,Garfinkel an effort and how "Agnes," "intersexed person," deploystremendous study of in the dimension social ingenuity orderto negotiate taken-for-granted social to interactions thereby pass as a womanaccording dominant and to heightened degreesof conscious norms.While these accountsrepresent (Corsaro), and/or critical purpose (Garfinkel), creative embellishment penetration (Willis), and thus brush up against the second and third since dimensions agency,the iterational of dimensionremainsprimary, a choices continueto reflect deeper stratumof culturallyand socialto thereby contributing therepropsychologically rootedpredispositions, ductionof social structures. research lifecoursedevelopment on Life coursedevelopment.-Recent influence past experiences agentic of on also inquiresintothe formative processes(Berteaux1981; Elder 1985, 1994; O'Rand and Krecker1990). In the tradition Thomas and Znaniecki(1918),such research explores of and develthe connection betweensocial structures social-psychological inin as from resulting particular opment, manifested thelifetrajectories tersections biography of and history. The implication agencyis that for determine traitsin themselves neither social structures psychological nor of habitsofaction;rather, actorsdeveloprelatively stablepatterns interacto tionin activeresponse historical situations. example, For GlennElder's duringthe GreatDepressiondemonstrates (1974) studyof cohorteffects how family interactions amid periodsofeconomic workto shape hardship and thusto precondition life emotional and cultural resources subsequent careers.Otherresearchers (Kohli 1986;Meyer1986)focusupon theinstitutionalized natureof lifecoursetrajectories, whichsocializeindividuals 982

Agency in relationto prestructured stages and pathways;however,theyargue thatthisdoes not eliminate role of agencyin the construction life the of "The individuallifecoursehas to be conceptualized as a not directions: behavioral outcome macrosocial of organizations ofitsinteraction (or with of psychological properties theindividual) as theresult thesubject's but of in constructive activity dealing withthe available lifecourseprograms" (Kohli 1986,p. 272). Typification withinorganizations.-Finally,the importance habit of in in and routine shapinginteractions stressed organizational is analysis, particularly the so-callednew institutionalists by (Powell and DiMaggio 1991;Meyerand Rowan 1991;Zucker1977,1983;March and Olsen 1976, 1984).Reactingagainstoverly instrumental purposive and views oforganizational life, manyoftheseresearchers draw heavilyupon ethnomethoand the dological,phenomenological, cognitive approaches, emphasizing routinized, taken-for-granted "scripted") (or qualityofknowledge and acto tion that makes organizations relatively stable and resistant change. Institutional decisions notdevelopthrough do rationalcost-benefit analyare routines become"rationaland sis,butrather embeddedin established ized"(and thereby legitimated) through only retrospective accounting proto cesses.This approachallowssuchresearchers arguethatthepersistence to and/or resistance changeofpractices within organizations maybe due less to social sanctions to formal or structure thanto thedegreeofinstituof of tionalization informal and socializedexpectapatterns sharedbeliefs tions(Zucker 1977; Meyer,Scott,and Deal 1981). The strong formative influence thepast can also be seenin theperseverance organizational of of even in thefaceofinefficiency, to theimprint founding due of procedures practicesthatcommitorganizations routines to (Nystrom and Starbuck 1984; Powell 1986). THE PROJECTIVEDIMENSION OF AGENCY of One keylimitation manycontemporary theories agencyis thatthey of the dimentendto restrict discussionof human agencyto its iterational as sion.Whilesuchtheorists Bourdieuand Giddensdo, in fact, recuperate of the creative,improvisational, foresightful and dimensions the implementation practicalschemasof action-what we call here maneuver of and and expectation-theyfocusupon a low level of reflectivity do not and showus how suchschemascan be challenged, reconsidered, reformulated.14By contrast, maintain we thathumanactorsdo notmerely repeat
see 14 This is notto say,on theother hand,thattheseauthors changeas impossible; callsfor "reflexive a sociGiddens's idea of"discursive consciousness" Bourdieu's and in that a increase freedom flexibility action and of ology" suggest each believes certain However, their frameis possible, one becomes as moreconscious one's situation. of 983

American Journal Sociology of of for past routines; theyare also the inventors new possibilities thought this and action(see also Joas 1993).To understand creative reconstructive dimensionof agency,we must shiftour analyticattention away from actors'orientation towardthepast and focusupon how agenticprocesses to We giveshape and direction future possibilities. arguethatan imaginativeengagement thefuture also a crucialcomponent theeffort of is of of of humanactors.As theyrespondto the challengesand uncertainties sothemselves least in partial cial life,actorsare capable of distancing (at the thatconstrain exploratory ways)from schemas, habits,and traditions This capacityforwhat Mead calls "disand institutions. social identities and tance experience" enables themto reconstruct innovateupon those in desiresand purposes. The subsetof traditions accordancewithevolving thisability rangedfrom strongly has the wordsused to describe purposive of terminology goals, plans, and objectivesto the more ephemerallanguage of dreams,wishes,desires, anxieties, hopes,fears,and aspirations. In thisarticle, termit theprojectivedimension human agency. we of In our view, projectivity neither is nor radicallyvoluntarist narrowly instrumentalist; formation projectsis alwaysan interactive, the of culturtheir allyembeddedprocessbywhichsocial actorsnegotiate pathstoward the future, theirdrivingimpetusfromthe conflicts receiving and challengesof social life.The locus of agencyherelies in the hypothesization ofexperience, actorsattempt reconfigure as to receivedschemasbygenerto situations conatingalternative possibleresponses theproblematic they in front theirlives. Immersedin a temporalflow,theymove "beyond themselves" intothefuture and construct changing imagesofwherethey thinktheyare going,wheretheywant to go, and how theycan getthere fromwheretheyare at present.Such images can be conceivedof with varyingdegreesof clarityand detail and extendwith greateror lesser reach into the future; theyentail proposedinterventions diverseand at levels of social life.Projectivity thus located in a critical is intersecting and practical-evaluative asmediating juncturebetweenthe iterational as pectsofagency.It involvesa first steptowardreflectivity, theresponse to of a desirousimagination problemsthat cannot satisfactorily rebe solvedby thetaken-for-granted habitsofthought and actionthatcharacstructure the social world."5 terizethe background of
works nothelpus to analyzethispossibility, do they do nor giveus thetoolsto recognizeit in thecourseofdoingempirical research. 15Here we need to takegreat care to avoid misinterpreting we call thefuturewhat oriented is aspectofimagination. desirous The imagination certainly directed toward thepastas wellas thefuture; reconstructive the dimension memory beenwell of has in documented research thisarea (Hobsbawnand Ranger1983;Schwartz1991; by Halbwachs1992;Olickand Levy 1997;Olick1997). Mead himself (1932,p. 12)makes thispointby insisting "thepast (or the meaningful that structure thepast) is as of hypothetical thefuture." also stresses, as He however, thatthereasonactorsengage 984

Agency Projectivity: The Historyof a Concept We wishto stress from outsetthatprojectivity the does notalwaysgenersituawith problematic ate morallysuperioror desirable engagements can as tions.Its potential inventiveness yieldresponses benignand munor dane as theprojectsto growa garden,to starta business, to patch up as a familyrelationship, as sweepingand destructive the projectto or establisha 1,000-year Reich. We also wish to stressthatnot all timepeor riods,cultures, theoretical traditions, even individualsare equallyproof jective. As Niklas Luhmann (1990) pointsout, "ancient"conceptions flow time(according whichan "enduring present" confronts temporal a to in whichthe future largelypredetermined the past),can be clearly by is in distinguished from"modern"conceptions, which experienceis confuture, whichis purposefully ceivedofas moving towardan indeterminate constructed means-ends manynon-Westrationality. Moreover, through of between ern cultureshave alternative constructions the relationship of and future, whichconstrain and enable particular forms past,present, is Our thatthespecific social creativity reproduction. premise simply and talkabout,negotiate, culturally embeddedwaysin whichpeopleimagine, futures and make commitments their to influence their degreeoffreedom in to and maneuverability relationto existing structures (i.e., it matters fixed and determinate, or whatdegreetheyunderstand timeas something as These pointswill become conversely, something open and negotiable). cleareras we examinethehistorical of of development thenotion projectivityin philosophical thought. Classical and Enlightenment -From theHebraic and anconceptions. of cientGreektraditions, gain important we earlyconceptions theprojectivecapacityofhumanbeings.In Exodus and Revolution(1985),Michael Walzer offers compellinginterpretation early biblical narratives, a of and theirown showinghow visionsby the Jewishpeople of the future to and promised relationship it-ideas of the covenant,redemption, as land-came laterto influence Christian narratives redemption, well of in the world.Within as thediscourse revolutionary of politics themodern
is confront emergent in suchimaginative reconstructionpastexperience thatthey of thatis, the reconstruction the past is of situations involving new future horizons; reference future to desires, concerns, possiand carried with(more lessexplicit) out or a claimthatas actionwithin givencontext bilities. can maketheeven stronger We the dimension gainsin salience;thisis implied, becomesmoreself-reflective, future activity, that as Joas(1985,p. 192)points out,byMead's insistence all self-reflective to referred regardless the richness of withwhichit engagesthe past,is "essentially present attitudes thathave been the future. . . It directs . itself the organism's to reference the future, to and formed the past, becomesaware of theirimplicit by in testing alternative future possibilities thereby becomescapable ofexperimentally thepresent thendeliberately construct plan ofits own action." and the to 985

American Journal Sociology of the framework theancientGreeks, of morestaticdestiny-bound however, future did not have the centrality has today as an object of human it imagination and action (Kearney 1988). Plato was deeply suspiciousof in the imagination a source of illusion,irrationality, immorality, as and oppositionto the pure,ideal, and eternalworld of rationalform.From realistepistemology, the otherhand, came the beginnings on Aristotle's as link ofa morebenignview oftheimagination a psychological between in sensationand reason,which,while not exactly"productive" the way Kant and thelaterRomantics would see it,did providethebasis forratiothe nal deliberation aboutthefuture allowingsocialactorsto transcend by Aristotle gave us thekeyconception also of boundsofsensibleexperience. a the telosof actionas a basis formeans-ends rationality, view thatprofor Western instrumentalist narravidesphilosophic grounding prevailing tivesabout the future. thesetwocontributions theAristotelian of Tensionsbetween legacycan later be foundin earlymoderndivisionsbetweenan affirmation the of moralconscience and thetranscendental imagination (whichis idealized as the"privileged of expression humanfreedom" [Kearney1988,p. 175]), and the abstractly rational-and imaginatively impoverished-instrumentality the utilitarian of tradition. These conflicting concernseventuin of allygainedsystematic expression thedualistphilosophy Kant (which accorded primacy, to however,finally the "practical"or transcendental of moment), well as in the Utilitarian as and Romanticcurrents the late in 18thand 19thcenturies. They also gainedexpression theHegelianand focusupon thetelosofhistory therelaMarxisttraditions, withtheir and tionbetweenobjectiveinterests subjective liberation Marx 1978). and (see thesecurrents As we have seen,in present-day moststrongly sociology, choiceperspectives, with manifest on themselves, theone hand,in rational actionand, on theother their stress upon purposive-rational hand,in norcultural ideals and moralaction, pursuit the mativeapproachesthatstress of ultimate and realization values. and existentialist in Phenomenological perspectives.-Beginning the late 19thcentury, encounter anotherline of reasoning-that of we yet phenomenology existentialism-that and contributes thedevelopment to the projective of agency.Buildingupon of theories dimension regarding of structure experience, of Edmund Husserl's (1960) theory thetemporal in as well as thepassionatedialecticsof S0renKierkegaard, philosophers this tradition actorsas "thrown" into historically situadepict evolving and tions;out of the anguish,uncertainty, longingthat arise fromthe of themselves their condition "becoming," actorsnecessarily into "project" of is own possibilities being.Reflection about thefuture characterized by "for is with emotional engagement, whenexistence interpenetrated reflection it generates passion" (Kiekegaard 1944, p. 313). Martin Heidegger 986

Agency affective en(1962) termsthis dimensioncare (Sorge),the preconscious of gagement theworldthatconstitutes "forestructure"action;actors of the in investeffort the formulation projectsbecause in some way or other of theycare about (notjust "have an interest what will happen to them in") this emotional in the future.16 Jean-PaulSartre(1956) later stresses, As engagement the futurealways impliesa thrust surpass our basic of to is condition incompleteness: of "The fundamental projectof thefor-itself withwhat it lacks" (Bernstein to achieve a coincidence 1971,p. 139). the traditions the to The bridgefrom existential phenomenological and withsharedmeaning made by Schutz(1962, is sociological preoccupation 1967),who stresses "theproject"as a fundamental unitof action.Schutz into (1967, p. 61) bringsHusserl's basicallyepistemological observations the realmof actiontheory, out pointing that"themeaningofany action the actis its corresponding projectedact." Projectsrepresent completed to-beas imaginedin the future perfect tense;"The unityof the action is a function thespan or breadth theproject"(Schutz 1967,p. 62; emof of phasis in the original).Here Schutz takes up the questionbracketedby but rationalchoice theory: is interested in behavioraloutcomes, he not actors rather how forward-looking notalways utility-maximizing) in (but choices out of fluidand shifting fieldsof possibilities. actuallyconstruct For Schutz,purposeful actionis rarelyguided by the abstractobjective analysisof means and ends,or by the clear choice betweenalternatives, in thatrationalchoicetheorists propose(ironically, commonwithParsons and shaped by typifi[Schutz1978;Joas 1996]).Not onlyis actionlimited bothmeansand ends cationsfrom past experiences, moreimportant, but, are always temporally and evolving,multiply inflected, markedby high of a process degrees indeterminacy. Plans and purposesundergo continual in ofprojective are "phantasying," which"raysofattention" focusedupon "like of statesuntilchoicesdetachthemselves, a plurality possiblefuture fromthe subjectivehorizonsof futureactions (Schutz overripefruit," 1967,pp. 67-68).17 and Pragmatist perspectives.-Whiletheexistentialist phenomenologithe for cal traditions of they prove highlight centrality projects humanlife,
16 Cornelius Castoriadis (1987,p. 87) drawsheavily uponHeidegger-as wellas Aris"To totleand Marx-in his own theory "theimaginative of constitution society": of do something, do a book,to make a child,a revolution, just doingas such, to or is projecting oneself intoa future situation whichis openedup on all sides to the unknown." 17In that contrast mostrational to choicetheorists, Schutz(1967,p. 69) maintains choicesare highly unstable and onlygainrelative clarity after act has beencomthe pleted, through postfactoreflection: ex "The error to supposethatthe conscious is the state, whichonlyexistsafter deed is done,lies back at some 'pointof duration' before actual choice." the


American Journalof Sociology less helpful showingwhat projectsare good for-that is, how our proin to a jectivecapacityis essential problem solvingwithin community. Here, once again,we can turnto the pragmatists, who in additionto their concern with routine,are deeply attunedto the imaginativeflexibility of about the future. actors' deliberations Dewey (1981, p. 61), forexample, the withthefuture an essential as characterizes experimental relationship in of dimension humanaction:"Experience itsvitalform experimental, is to an effort changethegiven;itis characterized projection, reaching by by intotheunknown; connection withthefuture itssalienttrait." is forward in is results Human intelligence based upon the capacityto "read future present on-goings" (Dewey 1981,p. 69); thisprojectivecapacitypermits thekindof responsive choiceand inventive of manipulation thephysical to and socialworldsthatis so essential democratic participation. Likewise, of the dimension projecMead (1934) stresses essentially intersubjective thatour basic self-concept developedfrom capacity is the tivity, arguing intotheexperiences others. of The imaginative to projectourselves capacityof the "I" to move betweenmultiplesituationally variable "me's" is in freedom what constitutes and maneuverability relationto established roles,as well as makingpossiblesocial coordination, joint problemsolvIn ing,and collective projectsofsocial reform. thepragmatist view,projects are not constituted into world merely "thrownness" an uncertain by but that condemnsus to freedom, also by the practicalexerciseof that freedom along withothersin pursuitof a commongood. The InternalStructure Projectivity of As theforegoing discussion the suggests, conceptofprojectivity a rich has legacy in philosophyand in sociologicaltheory.Our own conception of but builds critically theorists upon the insights the above-mentioned seeks to give a more concreteelaborationof how projectivity actually worksin social processes.As in the previoussection, outlineseveral we important processesinvolvedin the projection future of action,keeping in mind again thattheseoverlap withand feedinto one another, interand We fashion. differentiactingin an open-ended, recursive, synergistic ate betweenthreedominanttoneswithinthe internal chordalstructure ofprojectivity: narrative and construction, symbolic recomposition, hypotheticalresolution. addition,we again point to secondarytonesthat In orientactorstoward the othertwo dimensions time:relationships of to in the past through retrospective-prospective a processof identification, whichpossibletrajectories locatedagainsta backdropof priortypifiare and to cationsfrom experience, relationships the present through experiin coursesof actionare tentatively enacted mentation, whichalternative in responseto currently emerging situations. 988

Agency Anticipatoryidentification.-Alternatives are seldom clearly and neatlypresented, neither the future open book. Understanding but is an the limitedand yetflexible structure future of possibilities involvesthe in of workof identifying patterns possibledevelopments an often vague future horizon. Schutz(1967) tellsus, thisanticipaAs and indeterminate torywork is done by means of a retrospective engagement with one's in prior "stockofknowledge" stored typifications, as repertoires, social and narratives. This retrospective-prospective processshowstheessential role in of memory the mappingof future of trajectories action.(In thisway, itdrawsthepastintotheinternal structure projectivity.) draw upon of We in to to pastexperiences order clarify motives, goals,and intentions, locate possiblefuture constraints, to identify and morally and practically appropriatecoursesofaction.Such anticipatory identifications neveraccomare plishedonce and forall, but rather subjectto continualreevaluation are in lightoftheshifting multidimensional and character humanmotivaof tionsand social relationships. -Such identification typicaltrajectories of is Narrativeconstruction. closely tiedto theconstruction narratives of thatlocatefuture possibilities in relation moreor less coherent to causal and temporal sequences.While narratives notidentical are withprojects (sincenarratives represent para of ticularculturalstructure thatmay existindependently intentionality), theydo provideculturalresources whichactorscan develop a sense by in ofmovement forward time(i.e.,the proverbial beginning, middle,and end). JeromeBruner(1986) notes that the plots of such storiescontain at least threebasic elements: these plight,character, and consciousness; to elementshelp actorsto visualize proposedresolutions lived conflicts of that (see also Taylor 1989).All social groupspossessrepertoires stories serveas temporal framing resources and thathelp to define membership in a community (Carr 1986; Somers 1992); the degreeof specificity and withwhichfutures imaginedis closelyrelatedto the sacomplexity are lienceofexisting narratives the"careers" and (White1992)thatthey present as bothmorally and practically acceptable.While narratives provide "maps ofaction"(Ricoeur1991) and thushelpto institutionalize stagesin flexible thelifecourse(Meyer1986),theyalso, because oftheir and metato can phoricstructure, be used to experimentally positnew resolutions emerging problems. worksin a way Symbolic recomposition.-Theprojective imagination it to analogous to the capacityof metaphor createsemanticinnovation; takes elementsof meaningapart in orderto bringthemback together combinations. Paul Ricoeur(1991, pp. 173-74) again in new unexpected in describesthe imagination the "freeplay of possibilities a state of as or non-involvement with respectto the world of perception of action." Actorsplayfully insertthemselves into a varietyof possible trajectories 989

AmericanJournal Sociology of means-ends expandingtheir sequences,thereby and spin out alternative to (relaflexible response a givenfieldof action.In thisplay ofscenarios, of freed practicalconstraints, symbolic codes,schemas,and narratively) homologous, due tivescan be creatively reconfigured to theirmultivocal, and transposablecharacter(Alexander1988, pp. 301-33). This process dimension; example,in gamethefor has an intersubjective transactional scenarios regarding actorsmakedecisionson thebasis ofimaginative ory, the simultaneous projections otheractors(Axelrod1984). by imaginative of In a potentially agonistic less fashion, jointprojections actionscenarios for bases forthe formulation new strategies of providecommunicative of collectiveaction (Melucci 1989),as well as forthe development new social policies, normativeideals, or ways of organizinginstitutions (McLoughlin1978; Castoriadis1987). resolution.-After surveying possiblescenariosofaction, Hypothetical resolutions that will adeactorsface the task of proposing hypothetical quatelyrespondto the moral,practical,and emotionalconcernsarising are from lived conflicts. factthatall of our conflicts overdetermined The usuand thatour senseofrelevancechangesoverthecourseofa lifetime, in will willoften they allymeansthatsuchresolutions be synthetic nature; and difto simultaneously to incorporate attempt resolveseveralconflicts of for ferent fields intended action.A careerproject, example,mayjointly addressa person'sdesireformoney, and status, accomplishment, creative in expression, well as the hope to make a difference the widerworld. as in one to Likewise,by participating social movements, may attempt refor gainingthe opportunity solve social problemswhile simultaneously achieveand organizational solidarity, rebelliousness, peer recognition, ment. Whileall oftheseresolutions notnecessarily are at present theoutset if as clearly articulatedgoals of action (and may be understood, at ex whenpressed, will mostactors, all, onlythrough post factoreflection), of and descriptions what give more or less differentiated multivalent they"want" or "intend"in theirplans to pursue a particularcourse of action. of rests on enactment.-Thisfinaldimension projectivity Experimental the borderline betweenimagination and action (and hence betweenthe once scenarioshave been examinedand solutions future thepresent); and thesehypothetical resolutions maybe putto thetestin tentative proposed, or exploratory such as Erik Erikson social interactions. Psychologists salientduring particularly (1968) speak of thisas "roleexperimentation," adolescence,by means of which individualstryout possible identities to involved.Exwithoutcommitting themselves the fullresponsibilities often whichhave beenstudenactments have ritualovertones, perimental interactionism (Goffman 1959) as well as draied in versions symbolic of 990

Agency maturgic anthropology. VictorTurner(1974),forexample,describesthe "social dramas"thatare enactedduring "liminalperiods"in whichsocietiesritualistically reverse social roles.Although Turnerstresses how such dramas reinforce social order,we would argue thattheseliminalexthe perimental periodsmay also have a transformative renovational and effectupon the largerculture, new possibilities human interactions for as are imagined, and (perhaps)defined a collectivescale. on tested, in Projectivity EmpiricalResearch In considering how past patterns interaction imaginatively of are recomnew future posed to generate possibilities, open up a richly we suggestive fieldforsociologicalresearch. This is in contrast withmuchof empirical sociology, where,despiteits extensive philosophical legacy,the notionof projectshas largely been ignored, due in part to its perceivedsubjective nature and the apparent incompatibility "imaginative" of phenomena with behavioral observation,survey techniques,and macrostructural needsto be rescuedfrom subjecthe analysis.We arguethatprojectivity tivistghetto and put to use in empiricalresearchas an essentialelement in understanding processesof social reproduction change.Many of and theelements outlinedabove have, in fact, been addressedby a wide body in of literature various social sciencedisciplines, albeit in an undertheorizedand residualway. Here we discussseveraloftheseapproaches(and their in research theinterplay on limitations), orderto pointtowardfuture betweenthe projectivedimension agencyand the different of temporalrelational contexts action. of Time perspectives.-While most life course approaches in sociology of on have tendedto focusupon theinfluence past experiences subsequent life paths, a well-developed subfieldin social psychology has explored linkedto projectivity. Since the 1940s,research questionsmoredirectly on has been carriedout on "timeperspective" itsinfluence such matand tersas academicsuccessand civilianmorale(Lewin 1948);morerecently, in durresearchers thisarea have investigated changesin timeperspective such as childhood, midingdifferent developmental periods, adolescence, dle adulthood,and old age. Of particularrelevanceto projectivity are studiesoftheconstruction future of such factors expectations, examining in as variability the densityand extensionof imaginedfutureevents, linkedto cognitive such as development and/or particular social contexts familyor class background(Cottle and Klineberg1974; Devolder and Lens 1982;Wessmanand Gorman1977;Greene1986,1990).Whilemuch ofthisresearch limited overly is behavioraland correlational by assumpof recent theorists narrativity have added an interpretive dimension tions, 991

American Journalof Sociology to lifecoursestudies(Gergenand Gergen1983,1984,1988;Bruner1986; about past and future Sarbin 1986),exploring how personalconceptions of and/orcrisis(Riegel 1975, are transformed key moments transition at 1977; Cohler 1982). -A engages Propheticmovements. second line of work that directly is on utopian,and revoluprojectivity the extensive literature prophetic, for can movements. Whilesuchliterature be criticized itsoveremtionary or phasis on cultural opposedto social-structural social-psychological) (as we factors, argue (along withDesroche [1979] and Ricoeur[1991]) that in ideals and aspirations as theprojective imagination expressed collective not role in a wide variety plays a constitutive, just an epiphenomenal, from of historical millenarian movements, religious phenomena, ranging and to organizations, more cults,alternative communities, revolutionary forms culturalrevival.For example,NormanCohn (1977, of generalized appearingin Europe durpp. 16-17) arguesthatmillenarian projections kinds of moveing the llth-16th centuriesresultedin very different mentsthan the more limitedlocalized peasant or artisanrevoltsof the period:"The usual desireof the poor to improvethe materialconditions withphantasiesof a world reborninto of theirlives became transfused innocence througha final, apocalyptic massacre." Likewise, William during peMcLoughlin(1978,p. 2) claimsthatmajor"greatawakenings" led revivriodsofuncertainty changein American and history to cathartic in of als that"eventuated basic restructurings our institutions redefiand nitions of our social goals." Finally, both Marxist and non-Marxist historians revolutions of (e.g.,Thompson1966, 1993; Walzer 1965, 1980) which movements, explore the projectivedimensionsof revolutionary as to a Walzerdefines "consciousattempts establish new moraland mateof rial worldand to impose,or evoke,radicallynew patterns day-to-day he conduct."Revolutionitself, concludes,"is a project"(Walzer 1980, pp. 202-3). in -The projective is Framing imagination also a factor less processes. of forms social movements efforts institutional and at reform. apocalyptic Most work in this well-researched area fails to adequatelytheorizethe due in part to the paradigmatic split duringthe projectivedimension, and "identity" (Cohen 1985). This 1970s and 1980s between"strategy" and split,whichgoes back to theKantian divisionbetweeninterests ideof two intrinsically linkeddimensions of als, has had the effect severing of whileidenprojectivity: strategies stripped meaning are and reflexivity, tities temporally are flattened and shornoftheir out orienting power(Mische 1994).18 to the Recentattempts bring twoparadigms together Mor(see
18 Mische(1997,pp. 7-8) has further study of developed thiscritique an empirical in allows projectivity social movements, and arguing thatthe conceptof projectivity


Agency ris and Mueller 1992) have resulted in concepts approximating in projectivity, as thatofframing collective such action(Snow et al. 1986; Snow and Benford1988; Gamson 1992; Tarrow 1992; foran alternative formulation, Steinberg see [1996]).Despite its structuralist overtones, the notionof frames moreaccurately, (or framing processes) "impliesagency and contention the level of realityconstruction" at (Snow and Benford it 1992,p. 136). Framingis both diagnosticand prognostic: suggests"a the and theassignment of generalline of actionforameliorating problem responsibility carrying for out that action" (Snow and Benford 1992, p. 137).In proposing new social ends as well as different meansforarriving at them,actorsdraw upon-and sometimes extend,rearrange, and transform-the masterframes extantin the broaderpoliticalculture. Institutional -A research innovation. fourth area in whichprojectivity is important as yetunderdeveloped) thatofinstitutional (but is innovation reactedagainst and change. As we have seen, the new institutionalists rational-choice views of organizationaldecision making by, in effect, the eclipsing projective dimension, arguing thatinstitutional purposesare embeddedin routines thatcometo lightonlyin posthoc accounting practices.But recently, someorganizational researchers (DiMaggio 1988,1991; Galaskiewicz1991; Fligstein1991;Brintand Karabel 1991)have triedto recuperate purposeful conflict-driven the and aspectoforganizations and to of to pay moreattention processes institution and reform. Paul building DiMaggio (1991),forexample,invokesthelanguageofprojectivity (albeit of without of theorizing in his study thestruggles museum it) professionals over the model of art museumto be imposedon a developingorganizafor tionalfield. DiMaggio (1991,p. 277) showshow opportunities "professional projects" "reinforced awarenessthattheywerepartof a collecthe wouldlookto one another tiveenterprise, thusthelikelihood and thatthey as modelsand as sourcesofinnovation." These projectswereconstructed culturalaccount"ofjustice by drawingcontentiously upon the"Western and progress (Meyer,Boli, and Thomas 1987),showingthe importance in of narrativereconstruction the development collectiveprojectsof of action.
us to supersede splitbetween the rational choiceand norm-based identity-based) (or perspectives collective on action:"Projects simultaneously are and moral, practical, in political scope, weaving idealsand interests, and together protest proposals, utopian alternatives pragmatic and of assessments opportunity structures." Similarly, projecthe rational tivity challenges dividebetween choiceand cultural determinism: "Projectsare themeansby whichactorsimaginatively formulate but purposive actions, theseare alwayscomposed from cultural the narratives repertoires hand.... and at In contrast theabstract to voluntarism rational-choice of theory, moreover, conthe of is to and struction projects situationally contingent, subject learning processes revision,and alwayssurrounded a highdegree uncertainty." by of 993

American Journalof Sociology THE PRACTICAL-EVALUATIVE DIMENSION OF AGENCY is The final variation examinein thechordaltriadofagency thatwhich we of Even relatively responds thedemandsand contingencies thepresent. to routinedispositions must be adjusted to the exigenciesof unreflective down and newlyimaginedprojectsmustbe brought changing situations; to earth within real-worldcircumstances. Moreover,judgments and uncerambiguity, choicesmustoften made in theface of considerable be meansand endssometimes contradict each other, and tainty, conflict; and "A and direction. unintended consequencesrequirechanges in strategy ruledoesn't[just] applyitself; has to be applied,and thismay involve it tunedjudgments.... There is, as it were,a crucial'phrodifficult, finely (Taylor 1993,p. 57). neticgap' betweenthe formula and its enactment" of situations The problematization experiencein responseto emergent and interpretive work on the part thus calls forincreasingly reflective of social actors.This exerciseof situationally based judgmenthas been variously termed practical wisdom, prudence, art, tact, discretion, here we designateit as the and application,improvisation, intelligence; dimension agency. of practical-evaluative dimension lies The primary locus of agencyin its practical-evaluative in thecontextualization social experience. Again,we echo thepragmaof of tistsin stressing communicative the transactional dimension such prodeliberation with others(or sometimes, self-reflexively, cesses; through about the pragmatic and normative of withthemselves) exigencies lived decisionsthat actorsgain in the capacityto make considered situations, of process may challengereceivedpatterns action. This communicative the of moment deliberative deciis whatdistinguishes "strong" situational the of sion makingfrom "weak" situatedness what we call, in the iteratacitmaneuver. increasing theircapacityforpractitionaldimension, By their abilityto exerciseagency in a cal evaluation,actors strengthen them leastpotentially) pursuetheir to projmediating fashion, enabling (at the ects in ways that may challengeand transform situationalcontexts of actionthemselves and of (although, giventhecontingency uncertainty the and interactions, consequencesof theiractionscannotbe controlled "feedback" in ways thatnecessitate new agenticinterventions). will often PracticalEvaluation: The Historyof a Concept the Despite its long history, conceptof practicalevaluationhas received duringmoderntimesthanit did less sustainedand systematic treatment in the ancientor medieval periods.In contemporary action theory and it has been overshadowed an emphasisupon clear moralphilosophy, by littlescope and explicitrulesof conduct,conceptsthatpermit relatively In of based judgment. social theory, modern fortheexercise situationally 994

Agency from withexplicit decisionprocedures and a widespread"flight concerns ambiguity" (Levine 1985) and judgmenthave become evidentin a host but of analyticalperspectives-notonlyrationalchoice theory, also less of conceptions social action,dating explicityet equally instrumentalist of back at least to Max Weber's discussions Zweck-and Wertrationalitat by (Weber 1978).Even Durkheim(1961,pp. 31, 26) sees morality, definiof of "an tion,as a "system commandments," infinity special rules [that "To the extent," writes, he "thatthe rule leaves are] fixedand specific." in us free[and] does notprescribe detailwhat we oughtto do, the action there no moralvaluation" is to to beingleft ourownjudgment, thatextent (Durkheim1961,pp. 23-24). once on Aristotelian perspectives practicalwisdom.-We mustreturn on writings ethicsforone of the earliest(and most again to Aristotle's or wisdom.In markedconof fully developed)theories prudence practical of holds that "threefeatures trastto later rule-basedtheories, Aristotle 'the matterof the practical' . . . show why practicalchoices cannotbe in rules"(Nussof captured a system universal adequatelyand completely its baum 1986,pp. 303-4): themutability theparticular, indeterminacy of and contextual and its inherent nonrepeatability.19 variety), (complexity of thatare constitutive a good huAlso, the values, rules,and principles man lifeare themselves hence,a concern plural and incommensurable; forsituatedjudgments supplantsany simplebeliefin the unproblematic (Nussbaum 1986,pp. 303applicationofuniversalnormsor imperatives variouslyto view, practicalwisdom can refer 4, 294-95). In Aristotle's meansor to ends;itcan be either and strategic calculative-in whichcase, or he says,we can speak of personsas beingclever,crafty, cunning-or of (Aristotle it can be concerned withbroaderquestions thegood lifeitself sees practicalwisdomas intrinsically communica1985,p. 153).Aristotle in and participation tive in nature;thatis, it entailsa deep involvement of individualor an ongoing Far from beingpurely community discourse. it and is profoundly opento dialogueand persuasion monological, remains in and implicated commonvalues, interests, purposes. -A significant break Theoriesofjudgmentand critical deliberation. whichregards withthislegacycomesaboutwithKantianethics, prudence but ratheras a not as a virtue,as did so many earliermoral theories, And vehicleforcold and selfish and pragmatism. calculation, expediency, providesa theory yet,especiallyin his laterwork,even Kant indirectly ofpractical he judgments (speevaluation.20 Moreover, adds thatpractical
19 Aristotle's thought any for the obviousand astonishing absencefrom "Perhaps most of in modern reader thatthere relatively mention rulesanywhere theEthics" is is little (MacIntyre 1981,p. 141). 20 For Kant's early critical viewsofprudence, Kant (1956),pp. 16,37-38; (1964), see p. 83. For his laterworkon practical judgment, Kant (1971),pp. 389-90. In the see


American Journalof Sociology of since cifically, judgments taste)fallwithin potentiality all persons of the the of .. on our presupposing existence a commonsense they"depend . [sensuscommunis]" (Kant 1951,p. 83). Kant linkssuch "commonsense" in to what he calls thecapacityforan "enlarged mentality," whichjudgin fromone's own limitedexperience mentis carriedout by abstracting in of else and thusto deliberate orderto put oneself theposition everyone notionof a comover thecollective good. Such an idea recallsAristotle's as modernthemeof of munity discourse, well as the more distinctively and sincejudgmentno longerdependsupon the subjectivity autonomy, individuals. capriceof concrete More recentexamplesof theories that fullyembracethe criticaland of dialogic aspects of practicalevaluationcan be foundin the writings and Jurgen Habermas. Dewey subsumes JohnDewey, Hannah Arendt, intohisown pragmatist-and emiKant's insights reflective on judgment of nentlyrelational-theoryof judgment.In "The Logic of Judgments beginwitha probPractice" (1985),he pointsout thatall suchjudgments in experimentally lematicexperience, fork theroad,whichtheyattempt a validityfromassumingthe to resolve.Judgments gain intersubjective "a and of standpoint a sensuscommunis, wholeofcommoninterests purposes"(Dewey 1978,p. 286). Arendt (1984,p. 36) also expandsupon Kant that reflective but by maintaining judgmentis not limitedto aesthetics She buildsupon represents mostpoliticalofman's mentalabilities." "the whichshe terms "representative Kant's notionof the enlargedmentality, it thinking," describing as the abilityto see thingsfromthe perspective ofothers, anticipated "an communication withothers withwhomI know I mustfinally come to some agreement" (Arendt1977a,pp. 220; see also Arendt1977b;Benhabib 1992b).And finally, Habermas (1990, 1993) enof that he is correcting gages Kant's doctrine judgmentwhile insisting of he Kant's ethicalrigorism; a Kantian "discourse justification" adds to a moreAristotelian "discourseof application."In developinghis theory ofcommunicative a action,Habermasretains Kantianemphasisupon deliberation intersubjective and validity, even as he objectsto theemptiness of Kantian ethicsitself.21
and CritiqueofJudgment, Kant (1951,p. 18) distinguishes between "determinate" "reflective" judgments; former the merely subsume particular the under ruleor unia versal already given it,while latter "compelled ascendfrom particular for the are to the in natureto the universal." For Kant, logicaland moraljudgments belongto the to and former category, whilejudgments tastebelong thelatter necessarily of involve practical evaluation. 21 A more ambiguous example (from within Kantian the tradition) implicit of reasoning inrespect practical to evaluation Max Weber's(1946)classicdiscussion "responsiis of an ble action"(see also Rothand Schluchter [1979],chap. 2), whichrequires "openof situations and of the possible(unintended) conseeyed"apprehension concrete quencesofactionwithin them. Weber'sanalysis an ambiguous because,unlike is one 996

Agency Feminist theories.-Meanwhile,manyfeminist thinkers critically draw and Kantian outlookson practicalevaluationin upon both Aristotelian and of analyzingthe particular capacities,experiences, histories women, while also generalizing fromthese experiences develop broader(less to theories moraland practicalreasoning. of "essentializing") One important contribution Carol Gilligan's(1982, p. 22) In a Different is Voice,which in stresses differences theuse of situatedreasoning gender and a "contextual mode ofjudgment" and thereby the seeksto overcome limitations of Kant's abstractuniversalistic conceptions moraljudgmentand action of (e.g.,Kohlberg1981).Froma verydifferent perspective, Donna Haraway (1988),too,criticizes established understandings "objectivity," calls of and insteadfor "situated knowledges" grounded theparticularities partial in of "limited" locations.Finally,Seyla Benhabibstresses processes dialogue of in and publicdeliberation herown communicative conception practical of judgment: thereis "no incompatibility," writes, she "betweentheexercise of moral intuition model of guided by an egalitarianand universalist moralconversation of [Kant]and theexercise contextual judgment [Aristotle]" (Benhabib 1992a, p. 54; see also Benhabib 1987, 1992c). The InternalStructure PracticalEvaluation of As the foregoing discussiondemonstrates, practicalevaluationas a concept is associatedwithmanydifferent forms activity: of withcognitive, moral,and aesthetic judgmentas well as withgeneralmodesofpractical consciousness and action;withexpansiveideals of universality, together withmorerestrictive notionsof genderedidentities and social positions; withcleverness and calculation, and yetalso withenlargedthinking and Here we examinethe internal structure practical of public deliberation. are evaluation,showinghow certainof its dimensions implicatedin all of the manifestations mentioned above. We suggest thatthreedominant toneswithin internal its chordalstructure be distinguished problemcan as all atization, decision,and execution, of whichrequirethecontextualizationofprojects ofhabitualpractices within concrete circumstances or the ofthemoment. also describe twosecondary tones:theactor'srelationWe of ship to the past is based upon the characterization a given situation of of and againstthebackground pastpatterns experience; therelationship to the future characterized deliberation is over possible trajectories by
thoseofDewey,Arendt, Habermas, points and it toward decisionistic a ethics ("Here I stand;I can do no other") greatly and downplays Kant's original visionof an "enlarged" "representative" or (Arendt) thinking. Weberfailsto theorize intersubjecthe tiveprocesses whereby ultimate endsmaythemselves chosenby reflective be actors in a wise and prudential fashion. 997

American Journal Sociology of scenariosby hypothetical of action,in whichactorsconsideralternative thesewithin realcritically evaluatingtheconsequencesofimplementing worldsituations. -The first component practicalevaluaof Problematization. analytical that the concreteparticularsituationat tion consistsin the recognition In or hand is somehowambiguous, unsettled, unresolved. thecase ofprojentailstheapprehension present of as reality in some ects,thisrecognition immediate to and effortless realization, posingchaldegreeresistant their or In or lengesin application contextualization. thecase ofiterational hathereis also the problemthat no new situationis ever bitual activity, all activity facesnew precisely same as ones thatcame before; routine the to have to be made. Hence the contingencies whichcertainadjustments of raisedexplicitly William by critical challenge "analogicaltransposition" Sewell (1992) and addressedas well by Bourdieu and Giddens. Dewey of "This "incompleteness" situations: refers thisproblem theobjective to as is is incompleteness not psychical.Something 'there,'but what is there does notconstitute entire the objectivesituation.... The logicalimplicaor as tion is that of a subject-matter yet unterminated, unfinished, not mustbe done-some pracwhollygiven"(Dewey 1985,p. 15). Something tical judgmentarrivedat-that will renderthe givensituationunproblematic,settled, and resolved. circumstances hand must in at Characterization.-The problematic frompast experiturnbe relatedto principles, schemas,or typifications in ence by whichtheyare characterized some fashion.(This component mostdeeplyimplicatesthe past in the momentof practicalevaluation.) in of iteraDoes thesituation questioncall forthe activation a particular Does it call forthe performance a specific of tionalor habitualactivity? duty,or presentitselfas a contextin which the pursuitof a particular or refprojectofactionis appropriate even possible?Speakingin specific erenceto moral situations, Benhabib (1992b) termsthis the problemof calls it "perception" "underor identification" "epistemic (whileAristotle and of judgment"). standing," Kant discussesitundertherubric "reflective to shading, adapting[one's]judgIt requires "responding nuanceand fine mentto thematter hand in a way thatprinciples schemasofaction] at [or setup in advance have a hardtimedoing"(Nussbaum 1986,p. 301).Judgmentsof thisnatureare emotional(or "passional")as well as cognitive: is (Nussbaum "Perception a complexresponseof the entirepersonality" can as 1986,p. 309),in whichemotions be seen(withAristotle) themselves intellectual life. "intelligent," educable,and inseparablefrom of Deliberation. -Plausible choicesmustbe weighedin thelight practical perceptions understandings and againstthebackdropofbroaderfields and aspirations. enters of possibilities (Here the elementof projectivity into processesof practicalevaluation.)Deliberationinvolvesmorethan 998

Agency an unreflective adjustment habitualpatterns actionto the concrete of of demands of the present;it also entails(at least potentially) conscious a searching consideration how best to respondto situational of contingencies in lightof broadergoals and projects.Such consideration take can place individualistically discursively, or monologically withinpublic or the spaces,recalling Kantianideal ofan "enlarged mentality." Whileoften employing strategic reasoningor means-ends rationality, can also reit to quire attention "what conducesto the end" (Aristotle 1985,p. 63; emphasis added); it therefore entailsfurther of specification habitsand projects as well as determination the specific of means foractualizingthem. Deliberationapplies to conflict among alternative possibleends, no less thanit does to the contextualization singularends,involving search of a forthepropercourseof actionto followunderambiguouscircumstances (Taylor 1985). Finally,deliberation also entails emotionalengagement of withtheparticularities situations; stands"on theborderline it between the intellectual and the passional, partakingof both natures:it can be or described either as desiderative deliberation deliberative desire"(Nussbaum 1986,pp. 307-8). Decision.-Deliberation aims towarddecision(or choice),the resolutionto act hereand now in a particular way. In certain cases,such resolution entails a highlydiscreteor circumscribed choice: an actor "finally arrivesat a decision."In othercases, it blendsindiscriminately the into flowof practicalactivity, and is onlyclearlyperceivedafterthe fact.In all of thesecases, it pointsin the direction action withinthe circumof stancesofthepresent yieldsa resolution translate and to with engagement such circumstances intoconcrete, (howeverpassionalor implicit) empirical intervention. shouldbe notedthatnotall choicesreflect It unambiguous strategies; this reason,Dewey (1940) speaks of flexible for "ends-inview"rather thanofclear and fixed objectives.Certaindecisionsare proand opportunistic, we shall see below;theymayalso as visional,tenuous, or engage(in a synthetic polysemous manner)withmorethan one problematicsituation simultaneously. do all decisionslend themselves Nor to of and Choicescan be a matter tacitadjusteasy formulation explication. mentor adaptationto changing from feedbacks contingencies-including experience-as well as the productof articulable explicitreasoning. or Execution.-If deliberation entailsconsideration planning, deciand sion marksa movement towardconcrete action,thenexecutivecapacity is thatcapacity"todo thethings thattendtowardsthemarkthatwe have set before ourselves" (Aristotle 1985,p. 169).It is a capacityto act rightly and effectively within concrete circumstances. life particular Ideally,one notonlygraspswhat one oughtto do but also how bestto set about it in the case at hand. To respond"at the righttimes,with reference the to right objects,towardtheright people,withtheright aim,and in theright 999

American Journal Sociology of and best,and this[is what] is characteristic way, is what is appropriate evenjudiciousexecution, ofexcellence" (Aristotle 1985,p. 44). Sometimes of however, entailstragic loss,as whenthefulfillment a dutyor realization visionofthegood requires sacrifice an equallycomthe of ofa particular in pellingdutyor good (Hook 1974). Execution, such cases, marksnot a but the of even happyresolution rather fulfillment a lesserevil.Moreover, of often relatively unproblematic instances execution createnew problems down the road; feedbackeffects foractionfurther may be initiated over control whichactorsthemselves have little and whichtheymaynoteven In or intend. any case, withexecution action,the arc of practicalevaluation is complete:not only deliberation and judgment,but executionas of well is requiredforthe contextualization our habits,ends,duties,and projects. PracticalEvaluation in EmpiricalResearch Finally,we outlineresearch findings thatpertainto empirical manifestationsof practicalevaluation,in orderto conveya clearersense of what is entailedby this analyticalaspect of agencyand to show how it can These findings be investigated underscore sociologically. possiblewaysin whichpracticalevaluationmight elicitedin particular be contexts and in in whichit affects turnthe abilityof actorsto engage with,respondto, and potentially transform theirstructural environments. Temporal area thatprovides insight into improvisation.-Oneresearch of the temporalcontextualization both ritualand purposiveaction inin cludesstudiesofsequencing For processes social interactions. example, Bourdieu's investigations the manipulation the temporalstructure of of of giftexchangereveal that the same gift-giving can have different act at the of meanings different times, altering effectiveness theintended act. that enable actorsto controlintervalsbetweenexTemporal strategies pectedritualtransactions-for example,by "holdingback or putting off, maintaining suspense or expectation," otherwisemanipulatingthe or of materialand/or "tempos" action-allow themto gain significant symbolic advantages vis-a-vistheirpartnersin exchange (Bourdieu 1977, p. 71). Additionalexamples of temporalimprovisation include "turninteractions. Conversation taking"patternsin everydayconversational of analystsin the tradition Schutz and Garfinkel (e.g., Sacks, Schegloff, the of and Jefferson and delay in the 1974) investigate subtleties timing of social organization talk,showingat a microlevelhow agenticmanipulationsoftimeallow actorsto engagein repairwork,to avoid or (alternaand tively)initiateconflict, in myriadotherways to advance theirown interests. -Another opening practical for and Resistance, subversion, contention. 1000

Agency and ruses"(De Certeau 1984) judgnientcan be seen in the "procedures by which actors can resistand subvertthe logics and practicesof the order.Such tacticsare "alwayson thewatchforopportunities established thatmustbe seized 'on the wing'" (De Certeau 1984,pp. xix-xx). They utilizean "art of placing blows,"of "getting around the rules of a constraining space" (De Certeau 1984, p. 18). James Scott (1985, 1990) explorestheuse ofsuch "tacticsof resistance" amongoppressedgroupsand individuals; hisstudiesofMalay villagers, wellas in broadercontexts in as ofslavery, caste subordination, serfdom, colonialism, racism, and patriarhe of chal domination, uncoversstrikingly similarpatterns disguiseddissent fromwhat he terms(echoingGoffman or [1959]) "official" "public In transcripts." examining moreovertinstancesof resistance and collective action,Charles Tilly (1986, 1994) also underscores shrewdness, the tact, and situationalawareness of individualsand groups,even in the implementation whathe calls "repertoires contention"; "perform of of they in dramasin whichtheyalreadyknowtheir approximate parts, [but]during whichtheynevertheless improvise constantly" (Tilly 1994,p. 15). Local or prudentialaction. -Yet anotherwindow of opportunity for in practicalevaluationarisesin thosestructural situations whichno clear in for expectations actionapply in thefirst place, settings which,as Eric Leifer(1988,p. 865) putsit,"rolesare not 'givens' thatconstrain interacthatactorsmustacquire through These tion,but something interaction." of necessitate calls "local settings "pockets") roleambiguity (or whatLeifer action," in which actors in face-to-face competitionavoid claiming "global"rolesuntiltheir partners signalthatsuchroleswill be recognized. A powerful Anillustration providedbyJohnPadgettand Christopher is sell's (1993) studyoftheriseoftheMedici in earlymodern Florence.PadLeifer'smodelof local acgettand Ansell(1993,p. 1264,n.9) complicate linkedecologyofgames,each gamelayered tionbyspeakingof"an entire on top of another," thanof one single,unitary rather game. But bothacof countsconcuron the importance "flexible opportunism-maintaining in futures the face of hostile discretionary optionsacross unforeseeable attempts othersto narrowthose options"(Padgettand Ansell 1993, by p. 1263). Political decisionmaking.-A highly contextualized analysisof political leadershipand decisionmakingcan be seen in workof such authors as Alfred O'Donnell and PhilippeSchmitter Stepan(1978) and Guillermo of These writers (1986) on thebreakdown (and transitions democracy. to) describe and contingent the open-ended sequencesofaction, underscoring uncertainties multiple and actorsat each stageof possibilities confronting "soft complexreversible processes;whether theybe "hardliners," liners," oppositional publics,or military men,politicalleadersrequire"good . .. to of judgment testthelimits a situation" (O'Donnell and Schmitter 1986, 1001

American Journalof Sociology p. 27). More counterfactually, Barrington Moore (1978) analyzesleader-, of of shipchoicesin his discussion "thesuppression historical alternatives" in GermanyafterWorld War I, choices that mighthave led to a more stable regimeand thereby of avoided the horrors Nazism. (That is, was a different How aboutalternapolicypossible?Whywas itnotattempted? tive tactics,strategy, Leon Trotsky's(1980) assessment of and timing?) thepivotalrolethatLeninplayedin themaking theRussianRevolution of is anotherclassic analysis of situationally contingent decision making; morerecently, Timothy GartonAsh (1990) has analyzedthe decisiveyet almostseat-of-the-pants in whichleaders of the Velvet Revolution way orchestrated channeledeventsin Czechoslovakiaduringthe crucial and months mid 1989. of Deliberationin publics.-One of the most important applicationsof judgment, and by extension the capacityforhuman agencyitself, of is deliberation over theproperappropriate ends of action-over what conduces to theseends. Empiricalstudiesof civil society(Cohen and Arato 1992) and of "publicsin history" and Sheller 1996; see also (Emirbayer Emirbayer 1992a,1992b)closely examinesuchagentic processes "repreof sentative deliberation. example, For thinking" collective and JaneMansof bridge's(1983) ethnography a New England townmeeting and of an urbancrisiscenter concludesthatcitizenboards are mosteffective when thejudgment and experience members of contributes common to problem MartinLipset,MartinTrow,and JamesColemanexamsolving. Seymour ine theinternal dynamics deliberation of within participatory workplaces in their classicsociological study, UnionDemocracy (1962).More recently, analystssuch as Alain Touraine and his associates (1983), Lawrence the Goodwyn(1991),and Roman Laba (1991) have investigated processes of collective deliberation thatprevailedat thegrassroots level during the in movement Poland. They demonstrate how Polish citizens Solidarity arrivedat judgmentsregarding verynatureof theirmovement, the its ultimate ends,and even the ideals to whichtheyaspiredthrough democraticdiscourse, dialogue,and debate withinpublic spaces. CHALLENGES FOR FUTURE RESEARCH In thisfinalsectionwe turnto the questionof how the threedimensions of agency-iteration,projectivity, practicalevaluation-enter into and different changing and withthetemporal-relational relationships contexts ofaction.The challenge hereis to analyzethevariablenatureoftheinterand agency,ratherthan to understand these as play betweenstructure either in influenstanding insurmountable opposition, as in currently or, in tialtheorizations, constitutive" a direct and stableway. being"mutually 1002

Agency betweentheir agenticorientations, We contend thatas actorsalteror shift composition their of chordaltriad, dialogically reconstructing internal the choice,and theymay increaseor decrease theircapacityforinvention, contexts which transformative to within impactin relation thesituational questionsforfuture retheyact. Such a conception opens up compelling subfields. searchacross manydifferent empirical

Structure, Action,and Agency A variety recent the betweenstructure of attempts rethink relationship to and agencyhave arguedthatthe Kantian dichotomy betweenideal and material between free willand realms-together withparalleldistinctions be necessity, voluntarism determinism-must replacedbyan outlook and moments a uniof thatregards theseelements reciprocally as constituting fiedsocial process.Seminal workin thisarea includesBourdieu's (1977, as 1990) attack on the divisionbetweensubjectivismand objectivism, of whichcharacterizes well as Giddens's(1979,1984)theory structuration, eleconstitutive henceinseparable) (and structure agencyas mutually and ments.This notionhas been a salutaryand fruitful forsociological one both the theory, making possible empiricalresearchthat underscores of causal significance structure the constraining as and enablingconditionsof action,and of praxis as "an active constituting process,accomplishedby,and consisting thedoingsofactivesubjects"(Giddens1976, in, in disadvanp. 121). But it has also brought its trainseveraltheoretical Archer towardwhatMargaret tages.Foremost amongtheseis a tendency the to (1982, 1988) termsthe "fallacyof centralconflation": tendency see structure so closelyintertwined as witheveryaspectofpracticethat"the constituent and agency]cannot be examined components structure [of it separately.... In the absence of any degreeof autonomy becomesim(Archer1988, pp. 77, 80; emphasis possible to examinetheirinterplay" in the original).22

22 Strictly conflation" elisionof thetwo key an speaking, Archer meansby "central Interaction." generalize We from elements "Cultural of System" and "Sociocultural between agency and its hercriticisms makea broader to pointabouttherelationship (1988,pp. 89-90) putsit,"thepowers of plurality structural of contexts. as Archer If, continuing into Mephistopheles [structure] ultimately dependon Faustus[agency] cannot vokethem," constraining enabling the powers specific of actualstructures and ifactors "areassumed enjoya constant to degree be determined. correspondingly, And oftransformative then under which encounters one "more freedom," thecircumstances see (on voluntarism" "moredeterminism" cannotbe specified thispoint, also or also Alexander [1994]).


American Journal Sociology of of What becomeseclipsedin the notionof the inseparability structure and agencyis thedegreeofchangeability mutability different or of actual structures, well as the variable (and changing)ways in which social as In actorsrelateto them. mostcentral-conflationist views,theconstitutive relationship betweenagencyand structure held analytically is constant. contexts acof We argue,by contrast, thatwhilethetemporal-relational tioninfluence shape agencyand are (re)shapedby it in turn, forand the mer is neverso deeplyintertwined with everyaspect of the latterthat thesedifferent cannotbe examinedindependently of analyticalelements The agenticorientations actors(along withtheir of one another. capacity or forinventive deliberative response) mayvaryin dialoguewiththedifcontexts which(and bymeansofwhich)they to ferent situational respond. for Whilehumanagencyrepresents possibility imaginative the distancing from (and communicative evaluationof) receivedstructures, agenticproin forms responseto thespecesses themselves assume diverseempirical cificcontexts withinwhichactionunfolds.We mighttherefore speak of the doubleconstitution agencyand structure: conof temporal-relational whichin turnconstitute diftextssupport particular agenticorientations, of environments. is It ferent structuring relationships actorstowardtheir within theconstitution such orientations of structural contexts particular that gives formto effort and allows actorsto assume greateror lesser to contexts degreesof transformative leveragein relation the structuring of action. Here it is important be perfectly to clear about our analyticaldistinctions:the foregoing are differentiaformulations based upon a threefold tion betweenagency,action,and structure. While what we have called "agenticorientations" varyin theirconcrete manifestations, agencyitself in distinct all remains dimension a thatis present (butconceptually from) instancesof humanaction;hencethereare no concrete empirical agents, but only actors who engage agentically with theirstructuring environments.We concurwithAlexander(1992,pp. 1-2) thatthe"identification ofactorand agency" renders "guilty [thefallacyof] misplacedconone of creteness. Ratherthanreplacing reinterpreting familiar or the dichotomy betweenactorsand structures, identification . actuallyreproduces .. [this] it in anotherform.... Actorsper se are muchmorethan,and [simultamuch less than,'agents' [alone]."All social actionis a concrete neously] on synthesis, shaped and conditioned, the one hand, by the temporalof relationalcontexts action and, on the other,by the dynamicelement of agencyitself.The latterguaranteesthat empiricalsocial action will neverbe completely determined structured. the otherhand, there or On in of is no hypothetical moment whichagencyactuallygets"free" strucwill. ture;it is not,in otherwords,some pure Kantian transcendental 1004

Agency EmpiricalPropositions Given these theoretical the formulations, empiricalchallengebecomes thatof locating, the betweendifcomparing, and predicting relationship kinds of agenticprocessesand particularstructuring contexts of ferent in action. Here we take a step beyondimportant recentinitiatives this such as thatof Sewell (1992),whichfocusesprimarily upon the direction, upontheworkofGiddens structural ofsuchvariation. side Whilebuilding the and Bourdieu,Sewell (1992,p. 16) criticizes overlyreproductive conof ceptions theseauthors, of arguing that"a theory changecannotbe built intoa theory structure contingent, of untilwe adopt a farmoremultiple, and fractured Agency,in his conceptionof society-and of structure." in actorsto act view,consists primarily thecapacityofresource-equipped the of schemasintonew contexts. creatively through transposition existing in He notesthat"agencydiffers but enormously both kind and extent," this to strucattributes difference primarily the"natureof theparticular thosesocial worlds" turesthatinform (Sewell 1992,pp. 20-21). Whilethis suggestive proposiframework allows Sewell to advance several highly different rates of change among such structures lantionsregarding as he any of guage,states, and capitalist economies, failsto offer theorization in differences agentic boundtostructural capacitythatare notinseparably of qualities. Moreover,he does not examine the internalcomposition of the orientations agencythat agencyitself, and, in particular, temporal we have discussedin thisarticle. in Wheremight lookfor we evidenceofsuchvariation agentic capacity? of How mightwe locate what we have called the double constitution contexts constitute the agencyand structure how temporal-relational (i.e., of thatshape agenticorientations, whichgo on to constipatterns response tute different of mediatingrelationships actorstoward those contexts)? of thatit is thesociality experience that Buildingupon Mead's suggestion of we threelinesofquesdrivesthedevelopment agenticcapacities, offer whichtheseanalyticalformulations mightpointto new tioning through in initiatives empiricalresearch. 1. How do different contexts support(or conduce temporal-relational This initialquestionmight considbe to) particular agenticorientations? ered the first constitutive dimensionof the studyof agency,in which are agenticorientations held steadyin orderto examinethe formative The task influences kindsof situational contexts. upon themof different here is to locate which sorts of social-structural, cultural,and socialmocontexts moreconducive developing different are to the psychological dalities of agencythat we have outlinedin this article.What kinds of for and settings situations, example,tendto keep actorsengagedin main1005

American Journal Sociology of tainingthehabitualschematic responses and relations thathave become in embodiedand institutionalized past experiences? What kindsof contexts themtowardgaining provokeor facilitate imaginative distancefrom thoseresponses and thereby reformulating patterns past through prothe jection of alternative future trajectories? And finally, what sortsof contextsconstrain enable theircapacityforcommunicative or deliberation, by means of whichthey judge whichparticular actionsare mostsuitable the forresolving practical dilemmas emergent of situations? The goal here is to locate particular packages of commonly occurring structure-agency relationships, acrossa wide rangeofhistorical, institutional, interperand sonal contexts.23 in We can start thisdirection building by upon Swidler's(1986) distinctimes.Duringstablehistorical tionbetween"settled" and "unsettled" periods, suggests, she mostpeopleunproblematically employ established culof turalcompetences; however,duringperiodsof upheaval, otherforms agenticactivity may come into play. While certainsets of actorsmight resistchangeand hold tightly past routines to (such as local or national in othersmay be more traditions) an attemptto ward offuncertainty, likelyto engagein projective activity expressed ideologiesand uto(as in pias) as they seekto imaginealternative futures a problematic for present. As a countereffect, strong the future orientations provokedby historical inhibit to changemight actors'responsiveness situational complexity and practicalexigencies expressed ideologicalrigidity lack ofnegoti(as by or in later moments a historical ating capacity).In response, change cycle might bringmorepractically evaluativenegotiators institution and buildersto thefore.We contend intosuch processes thatinsight can be gained by lookingat the agenticorientations supportedby periodsof stability the dimension of and/orchange.This recallswhat Mead terms temporal eventsfindthemselves sociality:actorsengaged in emergent positioned betweenthe old and the new and are thusforcedto develop new ways of integrating past and future perspectives. can formulate as an We this a axis exploratory proposition, probabilistic along whichto direct empirical research: Actorswhoface changing situationsthatdemand(orfacilitate) thereconstruction temporal of perspectives expandtheir can capacity and/ordeliberative for imaginative response. We can also tacklethisquestionin anotherway by focusing upon the dimension sociality relational(rather than the temporal) of (i.e., the em23 We bracket for purposes thisarticle question howdifferences agentic the of the of in orientation be empirically can measured, although certainly this posesa challenge for future research. also resist We callingagentic orientations "variables" any linear in in the orcausalsense(Abbott 1988), order stress recursivity multiple to and determinationof all social processes.


Agency beddedness actorsin multiple of cultural, social-structural, social-psyand A chologicalcontexts). compelling starting place is Rose Laub Coser's of (1975,p. 239) elaboration Merton'stheory thedevelopment indiof of of vidual autonomyfromthe complexity role sets: "The multiplicity of expectations faced by the modernindividual, incompatible contradicor tory they as maybe, or rather precisely because they are,makesrolearticulation possible in a more self-conscious mannerthan if therewere no such multiplicity." implication The here,supportedby Coser's research is amongnursing personnel, thatactorswho are locatedin morecomplex relational settings mustcorrespondingly learn to take a widervariety of factorsinto account,to reflect upon alternative paths of action,and to communicate, negotiate, to compromise to and withpeople ofdiversepositionsand perspectives-all qualities,she argues,thatsupportmoreautonomouspersonaland occupationalidentities (and, by extension, more imaginative and reflective engagements withthe contexts action).Anof in other intriguing research area relatesvariation agentic capacityto institutionalcomplexity; example,in his previously for mentioned work on museumreform, DiMaggio (1991) argues that the creationof a professional environment the interorganizational leads to morecritical at level in formal searchforalternatives, condiscourse, equality, and purposeful trastto theroutine, forms rationality preand of that hierarchy, scripted dominate insideorganizations. Whilesomeresearchers have begunto look inat how choicemakingand careersare embeddedin complexnetwork teractions (Abbottand Hrycak1990;Abbott1997a; Pescosolido1992),little attention yet been given to how differently has structured networks and careerssupportvariable agenticorientations. We can build upon thesefindings formulating to another by exploratory proposition serveas at a secondaxis forempirical Actors whoare positioned the investigation: intersection multiple of temporal-relational contexts can developgreater capacities for creativeand criticalintervention. These formulations be extended thestudy actorsin brokerage may to of of an instance agenticactivity. Such positions, longconsidered exemplary seize opportunities purfor social, political,and economicentrepreneurs back and forth soposiveintervention maneuvering by betweendifferent cial networks well as culturalor social-psychological While as settings. thecritical roleof brokers been well documented anthropologists, has by and social networkanalysts(Wolf 1956; politicalscientists, economists, Geertz1960;Boissevain1974;Marsden1982;Fernandezand Gould 1994), less attention been paid to the kindsof temporal has constructions (and that agenticorientations) thesebrokerage positions maysupport(Mische 1997; Gibson and Mische 1995). Our analysisraisesa seriesof questions in thisvein: are actorsin such bridging moreproneto projectipositions convityand practicalevaluationthanthosein moreboundedtight-knit 1007

American Journal Sociology of texts,given the greateravailabilityof resourcesfor hypothetical reand comparative evaluation of possible trajectoriesof arrangement action? Does the capacityto draw, when needed,upon different forms of routinized or to to relationships, conversely, purposively manipulate, or theseacrosschanging underlie their extend, to transpose contexts, abilcontrol over ityto gain greater and directivity thevariouscontexts within whichtheyact? in 2. How do changes agentic orientations allowactorsto exercise different overtheir contexts action?This secondquestion forms mediation of of requires thatwe reverse initialqueryin orderto examinehow changes our in agenticorientations the give actorsvarying capacitiesto influence diverse contexts withinwhich theyact. While the foregoing propositions set seem to providea relatively and straightforward optimistic ofscenarin ios-actors positioned moretemporally and relationally complexsetto tings mayhave morenecessity and/or opportunity developthecapacity forinventive deliberative and intervention-here runintogreater we analytical difficulties. anystudent socialprocesses As of knows, agentic capacitiesare onlyone side ofthequestion; just because actorsdesireor attempt to intervene does notmean thattheirinterventions have thedesired will effects. Both Giddensand Sewell (amongothers) have takencare to highof lighttheunintended consequences action,and a similar pointhas been seriesofstudies made byMarshallSahlins(1981, 1985,1991)in a striking on the interplay betweenthe reproductive transformative and effects of action.While a studyof such consequencesis by definition exceedingly to complexand beyondthe scope of thisessay,we can alertresearchers some of the paradoxical or counterintuitive situationsthat a studyof withstructure agency'sinterplay mightreveal. For example,an analysisofthemultiplex natureofagenticorientations Actors whofeel can helpto unpackthefollowing paradoxicalobservation: creativeand deliberative while in theflow ofunproblematic trajectories can often highly be To this reproductive receivedcontexts. understand of we lophenomenon, must recall that actors are always simultaneously cated in a variety temporal-relational of contexts once; thisis reminisat of centofGoffman's (1974)stress uponthemultiple embeddings situations in different or frames vantagepointson action.We can extendGoffman's in imagery suggesting by that it is possibleto be (primarily) iterational in in one frame, and practical-evaluative yeta third. projective another, in Moreover,a switchin framescan reveal apparentcontradictions the or of reproductive transformative consequences action.Take, for example, the case of actors who successfully followestablishedoccupationalcain reers, whichthey experience considerable a degreeofcreative and pracFromtheperspective their of own professional ticalrealization. lives,they are exercising high degree of personal agency;most likely,theyare a 1008

Agency highlyfutureorientedin formulating goals and objectives,and well equipped withflexible communicative skills,givingthemthecapacityto of creatively solve emergent problems withinthe context the workplace. to On the otherhand, these same actions can be reframed show their privileged positioning relation other in to similarly established careertrajectorieswithina particular social-structural matrix a givenhistorical at unconjuncture. maybe shown,in fact,thatsuch actorsare extremely It in to and relaquestioning (and iterational) relation theselargertemporal tional patternsof action. By "swimming with the current" (Blair-Loy 1997), theyunhesitatingly reproducelargerschemas,helpingto lock in place social, political,and economiccontexts, which,however"unjust" theymay appear in an expanded perspective, afterall serve the actors well withintheirown personaland professional lives. An analysisofshifts agenticorientations also shedlightuponthe in can in converse observation: Actors whofeel blocked encountering problematic consituationscan actuallybe pioneersin exploring and reconstructing textsofaction.Here again we build from premise the thatactorsmay be capable ofswitching betweenagenticorientations thereby and exercising different influences of mediating upon theircontexts action.In thiscase, to we can take as an examplethosewho feelthattheirattempts follow establishedtrajectories blocked by the social, political,or economic are relations theday (e.g.,thecase of womenentering of male-dominated careers[Blair-Loy1997],or of members any excludedgroupseekingenof tranceinto a previously barred arena). It may be that the reason such is bordercrossersexperience difficulties that theyhave alreadyprojectheirproposedfieldsof action(e.g.,the tivelyexpandedand recomposed of such experience thoseinvolvedin heady discussionsof social reform, as thecivilrights, but or feminist, gayand lesbianrights movements), that in to thosereforms practice, either personal/ on a whentrying implement hard barriers or of professional institutional/legal scale, theyencounter interpersonal institutional and conventions. Such actorsmaynotyethave skillsneededto deal withtheambigudevelopedthepractical-evaluative ities and dilemmasof new and unexpected situations; theymay in this of case fallback intoheavilyscripted iterational) (or patterns interaction, in whichconventional roles(e.g.,mother, seductress, maidenaunt in the intothe case of womenin businesscareers[Kanter1977])are transposed new contexts (see also Tilly 1998). On the otherhand, as such pioneers make inroadsinto previously segmented fields, theymay also findnew thesereceived and creativeways of fusing, and extending, transforming as withpractical to the schemas, they experiment strategies confront emergentchallengesof historically changingcircumstances. 3. How do actorsreconstruct their orientations thereby and alter agentic theirown structuring relationships the contexts action? Finally,we to of 1009

American Journalof Sociology focusupon the research dimenquestionsopenedup by theself-reflexive sion of agenticorientations, is, the capacityof actorsto reflectively that reconstruct theirown temporalorientations toward action. In Mead's thisis due to the abilityof consciousbeingsto direct (1932, p. 72) terms, attention and intervention towardtheirown patterns response:"Life of becomesconsciousat thosepointsat whichtheorganism's own responses workin social enter intotheobjectivefieldto whichit reacts." Important of has psychology focusedupon thedevelopment such critical self-awareof ness,often building uponMeadian conceptions communicative interaction(Cottrell 1969;Denzin 1988;Callero 1991;Schwalbe 1991).Of particular relevance here is previously mentioned work on life course and turning withits focusupon trajectories development, points(Elder the 1985; George1993),especially workexamining subjectiveand/or narof rativereconstruction the selfthrough self-interpretive activity during life dimension suchselfof critical transitions (Cohler1982).The temporal was three who showed construction stressed decades ago byErik Erikson, of how conceptions timedevelop and changeat keytransitional periods in thelifecycle;forexample,a critical taskofadolescenceis theconstrucin tionof a sense of a future connected witha past, as manifested a personal identity that"includesa subjectivesense of continuous existence" on (Erikson1968,p. 61). Likewise,researchers adulthoodand aginghave notedself-reflective in temporal shifts as perspectives individuals become less preoccupied withthe future and moreengagedin ruminations upon thepast: "Whilereminiscence used by mucholderpersonsprimarily is as a means of settling accountspriorto death . . . middle-aged personsare in in morelikely use reminiscence an effort solve problems thepresto to ent"(Cohler 1982,p. 225). Withso muchattention temporal to within subfield the of perspectives it social psychology, is remarkable that so littleof it has made its way in into mainstream theoretical and empiricaltraditions sociology. More in workis necessary order linkthestudy temporal to of constructions with the varietiesof agenticactivitythat we have triedto delineatein this article.We can formulate as a finalexploratory this proposition: subBy to and jecting theirown agenticorientations imaginative recomposition actorscan loosenthemselves critical judgment, from pastpatterns interof action and reframe theirrelationships existingconstraints. classic A to in recollection of exampleis Freudianpsychoanalysis, whichinterpretive has effect past experiences a liberating upon action;Ricoeur(1970) points out thatthis processis projectiveas well, suggesting researchinto how are intermingled temporalorientations (and undergochanges) in the courseof therapeutic Another processes. exampleis the notionof"cognitive liberation"in the social movementliterature (McAdam 1982), in of which actors "discover"the possibility collectiveaction in orderto 1010

Agency In mochangean undesired stateofaffairs. what waysdo such liberating mentsrequireor provokea recomposition the temporalconstruction of oftheself?Underwhat conditions such reconstructions agenticorido of entationgive actorsgreater lessertransformative or leveragein relation Here we have indicated to their environments? onlya fewgeneralcomponentsof thisprocess,the fullscope and dynamicsof whichpose ample challengesforfuture research. We close with the suggestion that these propositions not merely are relevantformicro-or individual-level analysisbut also have important implications macrolevelresearch.Abbott(1997b),for example,has for outsideof suggested thatthe conceptof "turning points"has extensions business lifecourseresearch, including studiesof politicalrealignments, cycles, and scientific progress (notto mention social movements revoand lutions).24 can pose thefurther We queryas to whether partof what hapof orientations pens duringsuch periodsis a reformulation the temporal of that shape the self-understandings collectiveas well as individual "thatlink actors.Here we echo Aminzade's(1992,p. 470) call fortheories theobjectivetemporalities long-term of historical to processes thesubjecof tivetemporal orientations social actors."Historicalactionsand choices are deeplyconditioned how collectiveactorsconceiveof the binding by or powerofthepast,themalleability thefuture, thecapacitiesofactors of in to intervene theirimmediate Researchers situations. have shown,for example, how cyclical (more iterational)and/or linear (more futureof limitson the rangeof oriented) conceptions timecan place "different adaptive responsesto new circumstances" (Aminzade 1992, p. 472; see in also Lauer 1973;Goldstone1987,1988);such differences temporal perof effects spectives have critical can uponthecohesionor longevity differentforms community of and/or collective action(Hall 1978). organization we of understanding Yet, despitea fewsuggestive studies, stillhave little the dynamicsby which historicalchanges in agenticorientations take studiesof the communicative place. We need further processesof chalnew lenge, experimentation, debatebywhichactorsformulate tempoand rallyconstructed understandings theirown abilitiesto engagein indiof vidual and collectivechange,as well as how thesemicrolevel processes intersect with longer-term social, political,and economic trajectories.
24 Abbott, however, less interested the subjective is in composition such turning of points thanin thestructural characteristics makethemparticularly that susceptible to transformative action.Trajectories, claims, he can be conceived as narratively of that about constructed "networks through time," linked occasional by transitions bring the between possibila reformulation logicgoverning connection ofthe pastandfuture ities.Turning pointsare the"peculiarly essential junctures . . whereactionmight . many makeparticularly consequential bridges making breaking by or linksbetween networks" (Abbott1997b, 99). p.


American Journalof Sociology Such an approachwould have theadditionalmerit placingthediscusof the of sion of agencysquarelywithin context its own essentialhistoricity.

We have argued throughout essay that human agencyneeds to be this radicallyreconceptualized. Neitherrationalchoice theory, norm-based extanttoday approaches,nor any of the othersociologicalperspectives of providea fully adequate understanding itssignificance constituent and answerthe questionas features. Nor do such perspectives satisfactorily with and impacts upon the temporalto how agency interpenetrates relational contexts action. of We have contended the thatone keyto understanding variableorientationsofagencytowarditsstructural lies contexts in a moreadequate theorizationof the temporalnatureof human experience. Actorsare always in livingsimultaneously the past, future, and present, and adjustingthe of to varioustemporalities theirempiricalexistence one another(and to in theirempiricalcircumstances) more or less imaginative reflective or and repertoires from past, the ways. They continuously engagepatterns in projecthypothetical pathwaysforward time,and adjust theiractions to the exigenciesof emerging situations. Moreover,thereare timesand totowardthepast,moredirective places whenactorsare moreoriented or ward the future, more evaluative of the present;actors may switch between (and reflexively their orientations toward action, transform) their and thereby changing degreesofflexible, inventive, critical response towardstructuring contexts. Such a perspective lays thebasis fora richer and moredynamic of understanding thecapacitythatactorshave tomediate thestructuring contexts within whichactionunfolds. have referred We to thisperspective relationalpragmatics. as Finally,thispointof view also opens up the possibility conceiveof to moraland practicalissues regarding humanfreedom, and creativity, dein and mocracy a moresatisfactory powerful way. In thisessay,we have notlaid out a normative theory thatactuallydistinguishes between"better"or "worse"agenticprocesses, "moreor less morally worthy" projects. The elaborationof such a theory would requireeven longerand more than thosepresented here. Yet, we have delineated complexarguments theanalytical whichreflective morally and action space within responsible be we the might said to unfold. Throughout, have stressed reconstructive, of (self-)transformative potentialities human agency,when faced with or situations. What are commonly contradictory otherwise problematic referred as normsand values, we can now add, are themselves to byin withone another ambiguousand chalof products actors'engagement lengingcircumstances; theyemergewhen individualsexperiencea dis1012

Agency Probcordancebetweenthe claims of multiple normative commitments. lematic situationsof a moral and practical nature can thus become resolved(to theextent thattheycan becomeresolvedat all [Hook 1974]) the temporal-relational contextswithin only when actors reconstruct whichtheyare embeddedand, in theprocess, their transform own values As and themselves. Mead (1964,p. 149) expresses "The appearanceof it, in interests theforum reflection of [leadsto]thereconstruction ... different of the social world,and the consequentappearance of the new selfthat answersto the new object." Whiletheoptimistic of progressivism theclassicalpragmatists mayapour pear relatively simpleand even naive from position theclose ofthe at 20thcentury, orientation the towardactionthatthey present resonates still to powerfully we attempt respondto a rapidlychangingworld comas of posed of increasingly complexand overlapping matrices social, politiIf the of cal, and economicrelations. we cannotcontrol consequences our interventions, can at least commitourselvesto a responsive, we experimental,and deliberative attitude we confront as emergent problems and across the varietyof contexts withinwhich we act. As the possibilities pragmatist thinkers never tiredof reminding this is a preeminently us, in whichunfolds perpetual dialogicand communicative process, interaction withthe social universe.Both the pragmatist of conception the reand can sponsiveintelligence theKantianideal oftheenlargedmentality be of use to us in thecontinuing challengeto develop ever morecomprehensive, cosmopolitan, universalistic and perspectives-perspectives nevertheless flexible to and enoughto respond situational complexity ambiguity.The "mode of associated living"thatJoas (1996), following Dewey, embodiessuchmoralintelligence a transperon calls"creative democracy" sonal scale; it involves"conjoint communicated experience" (Dewey 1980, p. 93) in whichimaginative reformulation practicalreasoning unand are in dertaken commonthrough inquiryintomoraland practicalproblems on the model of an experimental science.If our perspective human on it resolvesuchproblems, can at leasthelp to give agencydoes notin itself so social sciencea more adequate theoretical grounding, thatit can bein come a creativeand vital participant thisdemocratic debate.
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