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Structure, agency and power in political analysis: Beyond contextualised self-interpretations

Glynos, J and Howarth, D (2008) 'Structure, agency and power in political analysis: Beyond contextualised self-interpretations.' Political Studies Review, 6 (2). 155 - 169. ISSN 1478-9299

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This article evaluates Mark Bevir and Rod Rhodes' interpretive approach to political analysis by examining their account of social change. Their work is significant because they have endeavoured to construct a distinctive approach which strikes a productive balance between philosophical reflection and analytical attention to the empirical domain. Moreover, in elaborating their approach, Bevir and Rhodes wage a war along a number of fronts: positivism, institutionalism and post-structuralism, and so an analysis of their work enables us to take stock of a range of contemporary methods and approaches. In considering their underlying presuppositions and commitments, we pay particular attention to their account of human agency and its relationship to social structures and political power. While we agree with much of their critique of positivism, naturalism, realism and institutionalism, we argue that Bevir and Rhodes risk overplaying the role of interpreting the individual beliefs and desires of relevant actors to the detriment of a wider net of social practices and logics. Moreover, in challenging their understanding of the post-structuralist approach to political analysis we develop its resources to enrich the possibilities of a critical interpretivism, moving beyond concepts like tradition, dilemma and situated agency. Put more precisely, we argue that the radical contingency of social structures and human agency - their structural incompleteness - discloses new ways of understanding both their character and their mutual intertwining. For example, we develop the categories of lack, dislocation and political identification to think human agency and its relation to wider social structures. More broadly, we argue that an approach developed around different sorts of logics - social, political and fantasmatic - goes some way to steering a different course between a pure thick descriptivism that focuses principally on individual beliefs and desires on the one hand, and a concern with causal laws and mechanisms on the other.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Government, Department of
Depositing User: Carla Xena Galindo
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2012 09:13
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2019 16:23

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