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Handle with care: On the use of structuration theory within criminology

by Barry Vaughan
British Journal of Criminology ()
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This paper critically examines how Anthony Giddens's theory of structuration has been utilized within criminological studies. It suggests that rather than resolving many traditional dilemmas within sociology, structuration theory effaces them by compacting together structure and agency. Adverting to the critical literature on structuration theory, it points out the consequences of binding structure and agency together so tightly. The distinctive properties of each are collapsed into social practices which entail that structure is defined virtually--in terms of rules and resources--so that it does not have an objective existence. This confers a spurious malleability upon social structures, yet structuration theory is unable to specify when transformation will occur, and also fails to explain why there should be change since agents are overwhelmingly concerned with the preservation of security through the adherence to routines. These and other deleterious consequences are drawn out through an examination of three studies that incorporate structuration theory and they are traced to an unwillingness to conceive of social reality as being multidimensional, with each level possessing its own distinctive properties.

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