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Back to Utopia

Back to Utopia: Anthony
Giddens and Modern Social
Theory
fan Craib

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Over the past fifteen years, Anthony Giddens has produced a series of studies in social theory that must at
the very least be caUed impressive. Despite the boom
in theoretical work during the ’70s, he is the only British sociologist of recent generations to attempt the
ambitious project of integrating the classical traditions
of social theory with modern theoretical and philosophical insights. In many ways his project must be regarded as equal in scope to that of Parsons, his frequent
target.

Giddens’s assessment of his own intentions has
remained consistent: a revision of the main themes of
19th-century social thought in the light of the crisis of
contemporary sociology. He does not claim to offer a
new finalised synthesis, but rather to try to change the
grounds of the debate, bridge gaps between traditions
and identify the points at which differences may be
transcended (1). Despite these. reservations, we can
identify the synthesising intention of his work, leading
him from classical social theory to problems of methodology, in the widest sense of the word, and a consideration of contemporary capitalism and socialism. Dominant concerns include the debate between naturalist and
humanist approaches to social science, and the related
debate between structural explanations and accounts in
terms of social action theory. In relation to the former,
he comes down firmly on the side of those who assert
the specificity of the methods and objects of social
science. To deal with the latter problem, he develops a
concept of ‘structuration’ and of the ‘duality of structures’ which maintains the necessity for analysing both
structural and interactional features of social life. He
claims that this approach is neither a. hermeneutics nor
a form of structuralism (Giddens, 1984, xxi).

The fact that this paper will be critical of
Giddens’s work should not be taken as an attempt to
devalue it. He raises crucial issues and I find myself in
agreement with many of his arguments. Above aJJ, he
takes modern theory seriously and sociology has become
more interesting as a result. However, it seems to me
that social theory is not yet ready for the type of project he has undertaken. The problems are too complex
and the prospects rather less encouraging than he
would have us believe. Despite the value of individual
arguments, his attempts to overcome the fragmentation
of theory result in a forced reduction of .the complexity of the social world and lead to description rather
than explanation. He loses vital dimensions of the
theor ies he examines, and they cease to do the theoretical work of telling us something about the social
world that, previously, we did not know. I believe that
the end result of this is a significant incoherence in his
central concepts of ‘structuration’ and the ‘duality of
structures’ and an assumption about social order that is
as utopian as Parsons.

My criticism of Giddens, then, is that he oversimplifies the social world, and I wiIJ try to demonstrate this through a series of examples taken from
various places in his work over the last fifteen years.

First, I will show how he reduces the complexity of the
social world and of the theories he employs to build his
own conception of it. Secondly, I wiIJ argue that this
involves him in an over-simple idea of causality, and,
despite his occasional statements to the contrary, an
unjustified assertion of the interpretive nature of
sociology and a limited conception of action and
agency. This should be sufficient to demonstrate the
incoherence of his central concepts and his utopian
view of the nature of social order.

The Elimination of Complexity
Giddens often talks about different levels of social
organisation as if the social world possessed. a depth,
and there were underlying social structures which bore
a causal relationship to observable phenomena. However, in the course of his bridge-building he loses sight
of this depth. Everything seems to be dealt with on the
same analytic level, with, on occasions, a consequent
confusion in the priority he gives to one factor over
another.

My first example is an analysis of class structure,
found in his theoretical discussion of class in The Class
Structure of Advanced Societies (CSAS). In the course
of a lengthy and intelligent criticism of various
approaches he seems to define a crucial problem as
that of moving between the multiplicity of relationships
in advanced societies to the identification of structural
forms. This is also the way the problem has come to be
defined by many modern Marxists and Giddens seems to
develop his own theory almost as an equivalent. He
offers a modified version of Weber’S definition of class
as being based on property ownership, with the concept
of property extended to include the rights and capacities it confers upon the owner (1973: Chapter 6). We
could take this as referring to an underlying structural
level which helps us to order and make sense of the
multiplicity of relationships that we actually observe.

Indeed, in what many might consider a rather odd comment on Marx, Giddens indicates that his intention is
close to this: ‘ ••. to focus upon the modes in which
“economic” relationships become translated into “noneconomic social structure'” (1983, p. 105). This may be
taken as a statement of the problem faced by every
Marxist writer on the subject for the past century;
however, such an interpretation cannot be sustained. It
seems that we do not actually arrive at classes proper
until after the operation of a number of ‘proximate’

and ‘mediate’ structuring factors which appear to be
dealt with at the same analytic level as market capa17

ci ties (1973, pp. 107ff.). The basic definition seems to
refer to the level of underlying structure to begin
with, but ends by referring to the multiplicity of relations which need to be structured: its apparent causal
role, at least as laying the foundation of social class,
is replaced by an implicit granting of causal priority to
the structuring factors. There is a sliding of priorities
and a flattening of levels.

Now, one does not have to accept the ‘correctness’ of an orthodox Marxist base/superstructure analysis to recognise the usefulness’ of distinguishing between different levels of social organisation and of
attempting to identify causal relations between them.

Giddens constantly recognises the significance of the
questions that it raises, not least in the above quote.

He begins with such a. distinction but is unable to sustain it, and I think it is arguable that this failure presages the incoherence of his concept of ‘structura tion’.

Here, he comes very close to saying the classes exist
(in terms of market capacities) before they exist (as a
result of structuring factors).

My second example concerns Giddens’s discussion
of Heidegger in Central Problems of Social Theory
(CPST) and A Contemporary Critique of Historical
Materialism (CCHM). Here again we find a reduction in
“the complexity of the world. Heidegger’s concern is
with ontology, the nature of Being itself, and in particular the way in which Time is constitutive of Being.

One does not have to understand the subtleties of
Heidegger to realise that Giddens’s use of his theory in
effect trivialises these concerns; in fact he demonstrates it in himself:

••• measurable time-space is derived – that is,
imposed on time-space relations in Western
Culture – and should not therefore be confused with the nature of time-space as such.

(1981, p. 33)
In other words, there is a social organisation of time
and space. One of Heidegger’s existentialist concerns is
the way in which the social organisation of time and
space enables us to hide from the reality of Being and
Time, to slip into inauthenticity. Giddens’s concern
becomes simply the social organisation of time and
space in the constitution of different societies. It is as
if Giddens builds a bridge between Heidegger’s concerns and social theory and then destroys it, leaving
Heidegger standing on the far side. In Giddens’s latest
work, The Constitution of Society (CS), there is much
concern with the social organisation of time and space,
but Heidegger receives only a handful of mentions.

My third example is some comments which conclude a discussion of the work of Erik Erikson in CS,
and I want to use them to demonstrate again Giddens’s
oversimplification both of theory and of the real world.

Erikson is a psychoanalyst who has particularly concerned himself with the nature of identity and its relation to social organisation. Giddens is critical of the
concept of Ego-identity.

Even Erikson admits that it has at least four
connotations. Sometimes it refers to a ‘conscious’ sense of individual identity. It can also
mean ‘… an unconscious striving for a continulty of personal character’. A third meaning is ‘~ criterion for the silent doings of ego
synthesis’. A fourth sense is ‘a maintenance
of an inner-solidarity with a group’s ideals
and identity’. None of these single uses, it
might be remarked, is particularly lucid, let
alone the concept that embraces them all!

(1984, p. 60)
All in all, then, the t.erm does ‘too much conceptual
work’. Now, I have no objection to striving for conceptual clarity, and it is certainly true that the concept of ego-identity does a lot of work. Nonetheless it
seems to me that the concept is useful precisely be18

cause it embraces these meanings, a series of internal
psychic processes which are interlinked and continuous
with each other. The processes are, moreover, not lucid
processes but often, in the reality of an individual’s
life, rather dark and mysterious processes. The meaning
of the concept in this case is not lucid because the
reality it tries to grasp is not lucid. Indeed my criticism of Erikson would be the opposite, that he oversimplifies the notion of ego-identity, stripping it of the
dimensions of internal conflict present in Freud’s idea
of identity. However, as I will try to show later, it is
important for Giddens to have a simple idea of identity, and my point at the moment is that conceptual
clarity is not always desirable if we are trying to grasp
a difficult reality. It serves only to avoid the problematic reality.

Causality
Giddens often refers to himself as a realist, without
,elaborating on what he means by the term. Nevertheless, the direction of his arguments takes him towards
hermeneutics. It is within this context that his discussion of causality must be understood. The most devel·oped arguments are in New Rules of Sociological
Method (NRSM), but there are some revealing comments
in his discussion of Althusser in Studies in Social and
Political Theory (SSPT). Here he expresses his desire to
maintain a notion of ‘transitive causality’, which seems
to be a common-sense Humean conception that one
thing affects another; secondly, he criticises Althusser
on the grounds that he has no adequ~te conception of
‘agency or causality’, the context implying that they
are the same thing.

In NRSM, the implication becomes explicit (1976:

Chapter 4). He distinguishes between what he calls
‘event-causali ty’ and ‘agency-causality’. The former is
seen as presupposing some invariant connection between cause and effect, and as not really applicable to
social science. The latter involves some idea of a necessary connection and of causal efficacy. There is however – a fact which Giddens acknowledges – no elaboration of what is meant by ‘necessary connection’ and
we are left with a very limited notion of cause. All we
can do is describe people’s actions and their intended
and unintended effects. This would be writing history
in the simplest story-telling manner and removes any
possibility of dealing with structural processes.

I will try to illustrate this with an example from
CPST (1979: Chapter 2). Here, he redefines the Marxist
idea of a contradiction between the forces and relations of production as a contradiction between the
principles of socialised and privatised production. He
argues that this is the primary contradiction of modern
capitalism and that it produces secondary contradictions, the most important of which is between the
hegemony of the nation-state and the internationalisation of capital. Now, given what Giddens has to say
about causality, we have to abandon structural explanations of the development of the secondary from the
primary contradictions. Parsons could provide such an
explanation in terms of structural imbalance and boundary maintenance: Marxism could do so in terms of the
contradictory development of the relations between the
terms of the primary contradiction. Both are suggestive
and able to throw light on the process in question.

With Giddens, however, we would be left with a history
of individual choices and actions and their intended and
unintended consequences. Since it is unlikely that anybody actually intended the contradictions in question,
we would be left with an ‘explanation’ which says that
they are the unintended consequences of human action.

In other words, they just happen to occur. This hardly
seems a satisfactory form of social scientific explanation.

The interpretive nature of sociology
The discussion of causality points to Giddens’s tendency to reduce social structure to social action. Since
he views social science in terms of a choice between
positivism and hermeneutics, he also has to choose between seeing social structures as independent of human
action, which they determine, or as simply constituted
by human action. There is a third alternative which
escapes him despite his frequent claims to be presenting a ‘third way’: social structures may be seen as independent, to some degree, of human consciousness,
and as having a problematic relation to human action,
being neither simple product nor a simple cause of action. Giddens, however, constantly asserts the identity
of structure and action:

•.• understanding is not merely a method of
making sense of what others do, nor does it
require an emphatic grasp of their consciousness in some mysterious or obscure fashion: It
is the very ontological condition of human life
in society as such.

(1976, p. 19)
and, more clearly,
social structures are both constituted by
human agency and yet at the same time are
the very medium of this constitution.

(1976, p. 121)
From this come the characteristic themes of his later
work; the nature of action and language, and the insistence that actors have considerable, if not always articulable, knowledge of their situation. In CCHM, there
is an acknowledgement that social processes can operate behind people’s backs, but such operations are seen
entirely in terms of the unacknowledged conditions of
action or their unintended consequences.

It is, of course, quite possible to acknowledge the
truth of the first quotation. However, the fact that
understanding is ‘the ontological condition’ of human
life does not imply that. it is the only ontological condition. There is no prior reason why another such condition might not be the existence of relatively independent social structures. This is no more than saying that
individuals are capable of creative thought and at the
same time our thought is limited by the physical structure of our body and mind. How we conceptualise such
structures and their development is an open question,
as is their relationship to our understanding and action.

In some ways, these are the questions of social science.

Giddens, however, seemsto rely primarily on a (not
unworthy) humanist impulse to avoid these issues. The
depth and complexity of social structure and its relationship to our lives is lost. Even more unfortunate, as
I have already indicated in my comments on his use of
Heidegger, he seems to lose the depth of human action
as well.

Agency and action
Dissolving social structure into social action removes
the object of social action: it can now only act upon
itself, not upon social structures. In NRSM, Giddens
emphasises the reflexively constitutive nature of action. He argues that the traditional debate about action
in terms of reasons and causes wrongly divides action
into what are taken to be neatly identifiable components; reasons, motives, purposes, intentions etc. He suggests, rightly I think, that only rarely, if at all, can we
identify such clearcut categories. Action is, rather, a
continuous flow, involving a hierarchy of purposes and
constant monitoring by an agent. He suggests that it is
better to speak of rationalisations rather than reasons
(1976, Chapter 2). However, he goes no further than
putting the traditional categories into motion: reasons
become reasoning.

On several occasions, he presents a conception of
the social actor as comprised of different levels. He
distinguishes an unconscious, taken-for-granted framework of meaning, common-sense, and ongoing reflexive
rationalisation. In CPST (1979, Chapter 5) he seems to
give the unconscious some priority. However, what is
missing here in the way of theoretical work is an
account of any relationship between these levels, and
there is a little comment on their internal structures
and workings. It is precisely these areas that are significant. If, as Giddens argues, the unconscious is the
source of motivation, then we need to understand how
it works and how it comes to appear in consciousness.

If it is true that we rely on taken-for-granted and
common-sense assumptions, then we need to know how
these effect our conscious beliefs and rationalisations.

Simply pointing to the existence of these areas is not
sufficient, and we find here a similar trivialisation of
theory to that I noted in relation to Heidegger. Ethnomethodology, for example, is a questionable approach
which nonetheless raises questions which challenge the
main body of sociological thought in a new way. Whatever one might think of its success, it has developed an
intricate and detailed methodology for laying bare the
rules that govern action. In the work of Cicourel, for
example, this is extended into a sophisticated theory of
perception and conception, and of agency. Giddens
manages to reduce all this to a series of generalised
statements about the world: that action is rulegoverned, that language is important and that context
is important (1977, Chapter 1). The theoretical work of
ethnomethodology is lost.

The way in which Giddens slips the object of
action back into the action itself, together with the
loss of depth in his view of agency, can be seen in his
contradictory criticism of Habermas in SSPT. In an argument the beginning of which would gladden the heart
of any orthodox Marxist, he points out that Habermas’s
distinction between labour and interaction· loses the
possibility of understanding domination as tied to
material interests. Power becomes simply a matter of
ideologically deformed communication. However, he
goes on to argue:

Instead of equating labour with instrumental
action and separating these analytically from
interaction ••. I think it important to place in
the forefront the concepts of production and
reproduction of interaction, as contingent
accomplishments of human actors. If, as I
have outlined elsewhere, processes of production and reproduction are treated as involving
the reflexive application of rules and resources in the service of the realisation of
interests (wants) power emerges, together
with symbolic meanings and normative sanctions, as integral to interaction rather than
analytically separate from it.

(1977, p. 153)
Thus, he begins by pointing to the importance of material interests which presuppose an external object for
action, but in the quotation, he absorbs material interests (labour, instrumental action) back into social interaction, and defines social interaction in terms of symbolic meanings, normative sanctions and the reflexive
application of rules and resources, a simple list of the
features of agency. From criticising Habermas from the
Marxist end C?f the spectrum, he moves to becoming
more of a hermeneuticist than Habermas himself.

Structure and structuration
The reduction of qualitatively different phenomena to
the same level, and the consequent loss of depth, are
responsible- for what I referred to earlier as the incoherence in Giddens’s central concepts. The differ19

ence between structure and action is both hinted at
and blurred in his notion of the ‘duality of structures’.

Structures are seen as enabling action, as its medium,
as presupposed by and resulting from action. If there ·is
structuration, then there must, somewhere, somehow,
be structures. His most developed discussion of the
issue, in CPST, reveals some intriguing statements. How
are we to conceive of the structures that are ‘structurated’?

I shall argue that ‘structure’ has a ‘virtual’

existence, as instantiations or moments, but
this is not the same as identifying structure
with models invented by sociological or
anthropological observers. Although I shall not
defend the claim, I regard the concepts below
as compatible with a realist ontology.

(1979, p. 63)
If his concept is compatible with a realist ontology,
then we ought to be able to see a structure or its
effects, but we shall have to be quick, since it only
has an instantaneous or momentary existence. I am not
sure what happens if it has a virtual existence. It
might be that Giddens is a realist in the sense that for
George Orwell some statements were true – they were
essentially true even if demonstrably false.

Then again:

I shall not regard structure as referring to its
most basic sense in the form of sets, but
rather to rules (and resources) that, in social
reproduction, ‘bind’ time. Thus ‘structure’ as
applied below, is first of all treated as a gener ic term; but structures can be identified as
sets or matrices of rules, resources and properties.

(1979, pp. 63-64)
One wonders how a moment or an instantiation may
bind time (not to mention the question of whether time
may be bound at all – it has a tendency to move very
quickly). More important, if a structure is not a set,
then how are we to identify it, since that would involve identifying interrelationships, i.e. identifying a
set? But then again, we discover that a structure is a
set, even if it is not basically a set:

I shall argue that strictly speaking there are
no such things as ‘rules of transformation’; all
social rules are transformational, in the sense
that structure is not manifested in empirical
similarity of social items.

(1979, p. 64)
If we cannot find structure in the similarity of social
items, then how are we to recognise differences since
the two imply and depend upon each other? It would
seem from this that we certainly cannot recognise the
effects of structures in social items, so perhaps this
makes Giddens a virtual realist. And he would have,
despite himself, to be a model-building realist; if we
cannot observe structures or their effects, then how
else can we identify them except through model building? And a model is, in some sense, a set.

So far, we have learnt that structures have an
instantaneous, virtual, real existence; they are not
models, but it seems we have to build models of them,
although it is not clear whether this is because of or
despite their instantaneous existence. They are also
rules, defined by their differences which bind time
(here clearly despite their instantaneous existence); but
since they cannot be defined by similarity, they cannot
be defined by difference. They cannot be defined.

Finally,
As I shall employ it, ‘structure! refers to
‘structural property’, or, more exactly, to
‘structuring property’, structuring properties
providing the ‘binding’ of time and space in
social systems. I argue that these properties
can be understood as rules and resources, re20

cursively implicated in the reproduction of
social systems. Structures exist paradigmatically as an absent set of differences ••• (and
this implies) •.. recognising the existence of
(a) knowledge – as memory traces of how
things are to be done (said, written) on the
part of social actors; (b) social practises organised through the recursive mobilisation of
that knowledge; (c) capabilities that the production of these practices presuppose.

(1979, p. 64)
Now we learn that they are properties, resources, and
rules; that they are somehow form and content at the
same time. Since they are also structud!:!&. properties,
they are active, and the question arises of how an absent set of differences can possess the quality of
agency; we end by moving from an absent set of differences which does things, the realm of theology, to a
partial and mundane list of human qualities that could
be gleaned in rather more detail from a perusal of
standard interactionist and ethnomethodological works.

It seems after all that ‘structure’ and ‘structuration’ refer to the active features of human beings.

There is no doubt that Giddens tackles vast and real
problems of ontology, epistemology, theory building and
many other things. What is disturbing is the way these
are run together and discussed as if they were solved,
the term ‘structure’ stretched to hide the problems
that were there at the beginning. Giddens’s eventual
conclusion seems to be that we have to make a sort of
gestalt switch, what he calls a ‘methodological epoche’:

in our analysis we can examine social systems as ‘strategic conduct’, i.e. social action, or we can embark
upon ‘institutional analysis’. In other words, we end
with the old division between structure and action,
seen simply as alternative ways of looking at the same
world – that world being essentially seamless and with
little internal complexity. Thus, we come to Utopia.

..

Dahrendorf’s famous critique of Parsons directed itself
to the explicit assumptions and detail of the latter’s
work, drawing parallels with literary Utopias. I would
accuse Giddens of a more mundane utopianism, something more like wishful thinking, but in the same context as Parsons; that of social order.

Giddens’s assumptions about the basis of social
order are more difficult to find than Parsons’s. In
NRSM (1976, Chapter 3), he offers a Durkheimian
account with a phenomenological slant: social order is
based on a sort of collective conscience comprised of
taken-for-granted assumptions and rules. However, I
think there is a more profound and at the same time
more naive account. I have argued that Giddens
reduces the depth of the social world in various ways
and that he absorbs social structure into social action,
which is in turn seen in terms of human qualities.

There must, then, be something about the social actor
that ensures we live in an ordered world rather than in
chaos. The most explicit statement of what he assumes
about the actor that I have found is in CPST:

Ontological security can be takentO””””depend
upon the implicit faith actors have in the
conventions (codes of signification and forms
of normative regulation) via which, in the
duality of structure, the reproduction of
social life is effected. In most circumstances
of social life, the sense of ontological security is routinely grounded in mutual knowledge,
employed such that the interaction is ‘unproblematic’ or can be largely ‘taken for
granted ••.

(1979, p. 219)
This claim is repeated more recently in CS. What is

l
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happening here is a reversal of Parsons’s ordering of
priorities. Whereas Parsons sees the stable personality
as a product of the social system, Giddens sees the
social system, in terms of common-sense and the
taken-for-granted, as a product of the onto logically
secure individual. It seems that we have social order
because people are creatures of habit, sustaining their
sense of security in the social order. I do not want to
dispute Giddens’s argument here: we do find security in
the routine, and perhaps construct the routine because
it gives us security. He is right so far as he goes. My
point, rather, is that this is only half the picture. If
that were all there is to it, the world would probably
be a nicer, but perhaps more boring, place and in this
sense he is indulging in wishful thinking.

That he is only half right, engaging in wishful
thinking, seems to be self-evident once we step outside
sociology books. Most of us live lives that are in part
routine; but they .are al~o fraught with uncertainties,
anxieties. and puzzles that originate in the depths that
Giddens has lost in his synthesising project. Our internal worlds also contain fear, self-questioning, doubt
and agony which at times enhance the banality of our
common-sense social world. We are regularly thrown by
external processes over which we have no control, processes that result in wars, unemployment, poverty.

These disturbances, these absences of routine, have
their origins in our unconscious, or at least the darker
reaches of our personalities, and in the social structure
in which we are situated but which we do not control,
individually or collectively. These areas, the very parts
of our lives which are not routine and secure, are the
areas which have generated the theories to which
Giddens does violence: Heidegger’s existentialism,
Marxism, even ethnomethodology. We can see too why
he wants a simple conception of ego-identity. These
are also the areas that require theoretical work: the
development of concepts that make intelligible what is
puzzling, painful or threatening.

Giddens’s tendency to gloss these areas and problems perhaps lies in the nature of his project itself. To
criticise him for a utopian conception of social order
is, despite my argument, just off-target. The real utopianism is rather in his conception of social theory: the
idea that a synthesising project is possible, or that
even that bridge-building is possible. The dream of such
a synthesis must always be there; it is, after all, a regulating principle of the scientific enterprise. However,
there is nothing in the recent history of sociology
which suggests that it is now possible to achieve such
a project. Giddens’s work emerges at a time not of
convergence but of increasing fragmentation in social
theory, with all the obscurities and dead ends and
bitter debates that go with such a breaking up. My
argument has been that Giddens avoids such difficulties
and debates rather than solves them. What he leaves us
with is a theory of simple complication. It is complicated because he identifies a lot that must be taken
account of: the agent and the agent’s unconscious,
taken-for-granted interpretive schemes, common-sense
knowledge, reflective monitoring, the process of structuration and the duality of structures, time-space constitution, reproduction and related ideas such as
presence-availability and so on. It is simple in that the
result is a series of generalising and descriptive concepts which are simply aligned with each other. It is
difficult to see the concepts of structuration and the
duality of structures as any more than a verbal solution
to the rocky problems that have broken the major
theoretical systems of sociology from structural functionalism to Marxism.

perhaps now time to move back to what I said in the
introduction is good about Giddens. It would be satisfying to offer a way forward that held out as much promise as his project, but behind all the criticisms, my
underlying theme has been that this is not possible. To
find the real value of Giddens’s work involves not
bridge-building nor the destruction of bridges but
rather an unwinding of what he tries to knit together.

It means returning to the different traditions and nagging away at old problems, from the Marxist basesuperstructure debates to the reasons-causes arguments
and many others. His contributions to these arguments
are real and interesting but neither he, nor anybody
else to my knowledge, has yet produced satisfactory
solutions. I am suggesting that theory and theoretical
work is more mundane and slower than Giddens makes
it appear: it is a matter of constantly finding new
problems and disputing old solutions, and of trying to
arrive at reasonable assessments of what a theory does
and does not enable us to understand.

In this context, Giddens’s other major contribution
has been to take seriously a range of thinkers and
issues which, strictly speaking, comes from outside
sociology. It is generally true that when they have
been considered by sociologists it has been through a
sort of enthusiastic discipleship that Giddens manages
to avoid. He is reasonable and reserved in his discussions of structuralists, post-structuralists, hermeneutic
philosophers and others, and if he has persuaded people
to think about Heidegger or Levi-Strauss or Gadamer
then his work has been worthwhile. I say this because I
think that one of the implications of the fragmentation
of social theory is that sociology as a discipline has
been unable to generate, either from its conceptual
frameworks or its empirical research, a real conception
of its own possibilities and limits. Despite the obscurity
and difficulty of much modern philosophy, such work
does begin to approach issues and choices that arepresupposed by sociological theory, and of which sociological theory needs to be aware. Such philosophy provides a map on which sociology must place itself,
whether it wants to or not. It is perhaps this area of
his work that is most important since it offers the possibility of new ways of looking at the old problems to
which we must return.

NOTES
See the introductions to all the works listed in ‘References’, plus ‘The
Prospects for Social Theory Today’ in Giddens 1979 and ‘Classical
Social Theory and the Origins of Modern Sociology’ in Giddens, 1932.

The most systematic collection of critical essays is to be found in
Theory. Culture and Society. Vol. I, No. 2, Autumn 1932.

REFERENCES
Dahrendorf, R. (19’9) Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society. London,
Routledge and Kegan Paul
Giddens, A. (1971) Capitalism and Modern Social Theory,. Cambridge Uni:”
versity Pres.s
(1973) The Class Structure of Advanced Societies. London, Hutchinson
(1976) New Rules of Sociological Method, London, Hutchinson
(1977) Studies in Social and Political Theory, London, Hutchinson
(1979) Central Problems in Social Theory, London, MacMlllan
(1931) A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism, London,
MacMillan
(1981) Profiles and Critiques in Social Theory, London, MacMillan
(1984) The Constitution of Society. Cambridge, Politey Press

Conclusion
This essay has become increasingly polemical and it is
21

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