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Structuration Theory By Anthony Giddens

Updated: Jun 29, 2019

All human beings, fundamentally, make the efforts to understand themselves and the world they live in (Dickie-Clark, 1986). Anthony Giddens have tried to answer this difficult question with what he called the “existential contradiction” which was compared to “structural contradiction” (Dickie-Clark, 1986). According to Him, fundamentally human beings have a duel character. On the one hand there is “existential contradiction” where human beings are physically connected to nature and are driven by natural laws on which they have no say (Dickie-Clark, 1986).  On the other hand, they have “a second nature” which is not natural and is produced and sustained by themselves and termed as “structural contradiction”. (Dickie-Clark, 1986). Thus, social interaction is the only medium through which people can live and to some extent control nature (Dickie-Clark, 1986). In his book, “The constitution of society”, Giddens explain these concepts with the help of an illustration of a tribal society with no rigid boundaries having “existential contradiction” and then with presence of state at city level bringing the “social contradiction” (Giddens, 1986). In simple English, tribal people have sense of freedom in their behaviour and the culture they adopt, whereas citizens are bound by set of rule and regulations in their behaviour in the society. The knowledge sphere of the former is restricted therefore they don’t affect the bigger structures of the society and vice-versa. This was the basis for his “Structuration Theory”.

According to Jones and Karsten, the central concern for the structuration theory was the relationship between individuals and the society (Jones and Karsten, 2008). They further argued that, social phenomenon is the product of both structure and agency with no interdependency between them what so ever (Jones and Karsten, 2008). Paradoxically, Tucker, has explained this duality of structure as a facilitator and a result of conduct by agents in a social phenomenon (Tucker, 1998). According to him, structures do not exist in time and space and they are simply product of human actions (Tucker, 1998).  Tucker illustrates his point with an example of understanding a sentence in a language, which is a result of action of linguistic syntax (Tucker,1998). According to him language and social actions open new possibilities and at the same time may limit them depending on the actor and the context that they are in (Tucker, 1998). Thus, constraint for Giddens is placing limits on different paths that an actor may take in a given social situation (Tucker, 1998). Both the views are equally true, and paradox can be explained with an example of a ‘freedom struggle’ which can be won by violent means or non-violent means ultimately it brings the peace and order to the nation state, or in sociological terms, the structure. Difference being violent struggle is close ended and non-violent struggle is open ended. Tucker, highlights this important issue with what Giddens refers to as ‘mixed intentionality’ that involves both intended and unintended consequences of social action (Tucker,1998).

Therefore, in conclusion, the ‘Structuration Theory’ has presented its relation between structure and agency as cause and effect, paradoxically we have also seen how structure and agency is independent of each other. The philosophers have also argued about the ‘mixed intentionality’ of the theory. The article does not cover of the structuration theory entirely as it involves other topics, subtopics and different viewpoints from other philosophers and its relationship with other theories in the sociology. However, it is definitely a starting point for the discussion in the social world.


Dickie-Clark, H. (1986). The Making of a Social Theory: Anthony Giddens' Theory of Structuration. Sociological Focus, 19(2), 159-176. Retrieved from

Giddens, A. (1986) The Constitution of Society. California: University of California press.

Jones, M., & Karsten, H. (2008). Giddens's Structuration Theory and Information Systems Research. MIS Quarterly, 32(1), 127-157. doi:10.2307/25148831

Tucker, K. (1998). Anthony Giddens and modern social theory. Retrieved from 

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