Anthony Giddens

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Anthony Giddens (McCabe, 2011)

Anthony Giddens was born on 18 January 1938. He is a British sociologist who is famous for his structuration theory and his holistic view of modern societies. He is considered to be one of the most prominent modern contributors in the field of sociology. The most recent stage concerns modernity, globalization and politics, especially the impact of modernity on social and personal life. This stage is reflected by his critique of postmodernity.



Anthony Giddens was born on January 18th 1938 in Edmonton in London. In 1959 he graduated from Hull University in sociology and psychology and took his master at The London School of Economics. After that he started working at the university of Leicester where he taught social psychology. Later on he started working at the the university of Cambridge where he gained his doctorate in 1974 and got a full professorship in the late 1980s. He has published a large number of books and has made some of the most influential sociological texts. He is also cofounder of Polity Press (1985), director of the London School of Economics (1997 to 2003) and a member of the Advisory Council of the Institute for Public Policy Research. Besides his scientfic work he was an adviser to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Giddens third way has been a major influence in Tony Blair's political idea's. Giddens also actively joined in political debates supporting the Labour Party with media apearances and articles.

Structuration theory

The structuration theory of Giddens explores what makes social space. Is it the individual or the relation of the individual with a group? He describes extreme positions in his book, arguing that people are not totally free to choose their own actions. He said that the production and reproduction of social life is an ongoing proces of proces of structuration(Gregory et al., 2009). In his view, structure is embedded in every moment of social interaction. Structures are on the one hand constraints but on the other hand they are the needed condition of social action. In this way structures are the vehicle and the outcome of social practices. Beside that he says the knowledge of people is limited. There exists an agency which reproduces the social structure and leads to social change. "Giddens writes that the connection between structure and action is a fundamental element of social theory, structure and agency are a duality that cannot be conceived of apart from one another and his main argument is contained in his expression: Duality (of structure)" (Gaunlett, 2002). At a basic level, this means that people create a society, but are at the same time constrained by the society. "Human agency and social structure are in a relationship with each other, and it is the repetition of the acts of individual agents which reproduces the structure. This means that there is a social structure - traditions, institutions, moral codes, and established ways of doing things; but it also means that these can be changed when people start to ignore them, replace them, or reproduce them differently" (Gaunlett, 2002). He also desribed Agency as the capability to act.


As with almost every theory, there is also critique on Gidden's structuration theory. According to Werlen (2009): "the basic shortcomings of Gidden's structuration theory is based on the assumption, that 'space' is - in contradiction to 'society' - not a theoretical concept but a pregiven fact, free of any need for theoretical considerations" (p.56). Secondly, the structuration theory is too vague because it is essentially useless in guiding empirical research, according to Gregson. A final criticism is made by Thrift by saying; his work is "an unconvincing account of redursivity, an over-emphasis on presence that 'never fully considers' the ghost of networked others, an 'impoverished sense of unconscious', and an inadequately developed theory of culture".


Giddens describes that self-identity is reflexive. It is not a quality of a moment, but an account of a person's life. " A person's identity is not to be found in behaviour, nor - important though this is - in the reactions of others, but in the capacity to keep a particular narrative going. The individual's biography, if she is to maintain regular interaction with others in the day-to-day world, cannot be wholly fictive. It must continually integrate events which occur in the external world, and sort them into the ongoing 'story' about the self." (Giddens, 1991).

In modern societies - (This doesn't mean that a society is modern, but modern developed) - self-identity is a important issue. "Even those who would say that they have never given any thought to questions or anxieties about their own identity will inevitably have been compelled to make significant choices throughout their lives, from everyday questions about clothing, appearance and leisure to high-impact decisions about relationships, beliefs and occupations" (Gaunlett, 2002).

Gidden's link with Gregory

Derek Gregory also has to do with the theory of structuration. Namely, the first attempt to integrate the spatially enlarged social theory of structuration into the geographical worldview has been undertaken by Gregory (Werlen, 2009). His regional geography was based on Habermas and later on Giddens’ critical theory . Gregory's theory is founded on criteria that are derived from structuration theory and not on physical geographical conditions. Gregory’s regional geography starts with the question of how societal realities are regionally formed and articulated (Werlen, 2009). And with this starting point Gregory wants to find the way to appropriate regional political or scientific interventions. To link back to the structuration theory of Giddens: Gregory’s main goal of this project is that spatial structures are somehow incorporated in social structures and vice versa. See also Gregory’s reference schema to the structuration theory in Werlen (2009, p. 52).


  • Gaunlett, D. (2002). Media Gender and Identity: about Giddens' work on modernity and self-identity. Routledge: London.
  • Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and Self-Identity: self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Polity: Cambridge.
  • Gregory, D., Johnston, R., Pratt, G., Watts, M., & Whatmore, S. (2009). The Dictionary of Human Geography. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • McCabe, E. (2011). Anthony Giddens' trip to see Gaddafi vetted by Libyan intelligence chief. The Guardian, founded at 28th October, 2011. [2]
  • Werlen, B. (2009) Structurationist Geography. In: International Encyclopedia for Human Geography. Elsevier


  • Page published by Bas Boselie & Chriss van Pul - ...
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  • Page added to the category Late-modernity by Anke Janssen - 16th of October 2012
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