The Reaches of the Social System: Six Channels
49 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2016
Date Written: June 6, 2016
How the social system impacts agents is a central problématique in sociology. I argue that the social system impacts agents via six distinct though interacting channels: constraining and enabling by purely material forces, constraining/enabling by the interplay of material and ideational forces, learning, artificial selection, constituting/constructing, and “anti-socialization”. Explicitly identifying the six channels and underscoring their interactions adds clarity and coherence to our understanding about how the social system shapes agents. The discussion sheds new lights on old and new debates, from the poverty of structural functionalism and the rational choice approach to the promises of figurational/relational sociology. The framework also points to directions for future theoretical and empirical endeavors, from how to link the “macro” with the “micro” and the “(external) society” with the “(internal) individual” to how to synthesize the two theories of identity and how to appreciate the impact upon agents of mega-trends in the social system.
Keywords: social system; agent; reaches of the system; channels
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