Structuration, according to Anthony Giddens, is defined as the process of the making and remaking of social structure. The book ‘Constitution of Society: Outline of the theory of Structuration’ defines ‘structuration’ as bridging the gap between structure and action theories.
In Sociology, the dilemma regarding human action and social structure considers the following issues: how far are we creative human actors, actively controlling the conditions of our own lives? Or is most of what we do the result of general social forces outside our control? Which has primacy: the social constraint exercised by societies or the wishes of individuals?
According to Durkheim, societies impose social restrictions on our actions. They are solid and firm and have primacy over individuals. Social structure constrains our activities in a parallel way, therefore, restraining what we can do as individuals. It is external to us: systems exist and operate independently from what we make of them.
The criticism that followed in response to Durkheim was that society is a sum of individuals behaving in normal ways in relation to each other. Symbolic interactionists said there are reasons for our actions and we live in a world developed by cultural meanings. Social phenomena depend on symbolic meanings we assign to our regular activities. We are the creators of society, not its creatures.
Theories that only focus on structure are beyond the control of human beings. They refer to structure as rigid – something that can not be changed. Individuals do not have the liberty to change structure. On the contrary, action theories mention that individuals deny the power of structures.
Giddens wrote structure is fluid – it is produced and reproduced by individual actions. Actions produce structure, structures produce action. They are inter-linked. For instance, in Pakistan, Urdu Language is an established structure. A decade ago, Khaalis Urdu was used – however, today it has changed because people tend to mix Urdu with English language. Hence, we actively make and remake social structure through our daily activities. Societies, communities and groups have a ‘structure’ only when it is shaped by regular behaviours and predictable ways of the people. On the other hand, action is feasible because we, as individuals, possess an enormous amount of socially structured knowledge. In the case of language as a social structure, speakers have to examine certain properties. What someone says would not make sense unless it abides by grammatical rules. Structural qualities of a language exist only as long as individuals conform to rules. Language is constantly in the process of structuration.
It can thus be concluded that structuration, as Giddens added, always infers ‘duality of structure’ – social actions presume the existence of structure. At the same time, structure presumes action because structure relies on everyday human behaviour.