By Raymond Caldwell
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Extra resources for Agency and Change: Rethinking Change Agency in Organizations (Understanding Organizational Change)
Instead, Giddens proposed that the relationship between agency and structure is one of interaction, or what he terms (somewhat misleadingly), the ‘duality of structure’. Structures are dualities because they are both the ‘medium and outcome’ action (1979: 5). Moreover, because structure as a process-based construct is sustained by interaction it is apparently open to change and this involves a rejection of the determinism implied by evolutionary and old style structuralist or systems concepts of order and collective agency: ‘All reproduction is necessarily production … and the seed of change is there in every act which contributes towards the reproduction of any ordered form of social life’ (Giddens 1976: 102, emphasis in original).
What emerges instead is a meticulous focus on how agency routinely reproduces structures, while these structures remain indeterminate (Barnes 2000). Giddens partly ends up in this position because he draws a confusing distinction between ‘systems’ as reproduced social relations and ‘structures’ as rules and resources that actors use (1984: 157). A more coherent approach would be to conceive of structures as both systems and processes. But Giddens cannot envisage this possibility because he wants to argue both that ‘social systems’ do not have fixed structures, and that structures have no reality other than as instantiated social practices or the memory traces of actors’ conduct.
At its most schematic, negative feedback entails comparing the current state of a behavioural system to a desired state, and then moving the system in a linear direction that minimizes the differences between the two. In effect, change is a linear or evolutionary transition process in which one state of quasi-stationary equilibrium is sequentially replaced by another (Van de Ven and Poole 1995). The idea of system change as a linear or evolutionary process also decisively informed Lewin’s three-stage process of ‘unfreezing, moving and refreezing’ behaviour into a new quasi-stationary state: ‘by adding 34 • After Lewin, after modernism forces in the desired direction or by diminishing opposing forces’ (1999: 280).