Agency, social theory and social policy

Ian Greener

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social policy writers appear to be increasingly concerned with theories of human agency and their implications for the discipline. This article considers a recent model of agency presented by Hoggett, and attempts to marry it with the social theory of Pierre Bourdieu in order to present a framework for considering the assumptions about agency made in New Labour's social policy. The framework casts doubt upon the viability of contemporary British social policy, with its model of agency based on Giddens's theory of structuration, and instead questions whether the model more predominantly found in Bourdieu's work might be more appropriate. The article also considers the role of 'context' in agency in more depth, exploring how behaviour varies according to structural and cognitive constraints, how changes in context led to the breakdown of the Keynesian consensus and the implications of this for social policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)688-705
Number of pages17
JournalCritical Social Policy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002


  • Bourdieu
  • Giddens
  • Hoggett


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