Agency and social change

The recent events in the Arab world are powerful examples of what can happen when individuals, using modern communications, exercise their collective agency to alter the structures that shape their lives and ultimately achieve change. As has been so forcefully demonstrated, in Tunisia and Egypt, the current power of electronic communications can create virtual communities of interest – and the internet has the ability to harness public opinion and push for change.

In my forthcoming book, Understanding agency: Social welfare and change, I suggest that the concept of agency can shed a useful light on how change is achieved. I attempt to explore the relationship between agency and structure and to identify how individuals, acting either individually or collectively, can impact on the structures that affect their lives – and in doing so, influence the future shape of society.

My book focuses on the significance of agency theory to social welfare – to welfare professionals and those with whom they work. However, I draw attention to the fact that only recently has it been applied specifically to this field, having already been helpful in the varying fields of economics, management and foreign policy analysis. In a later chapter, I also consider the relevance of the work and writings of Fanon, Freire and Amartya Sen, the Nobel prize-winning economist. All of these authors, in different ways and in differing national, historical and political contexts, allude, implicitly or explicitly, to the significance of agency theory to, for example, the freeing of Algerian ‘natives’ from colonial rule, and, in Sen’s work, to the economic development of certain parts of the world, particularly Asia.

Of course, there are many other ways of theorising these events, but agency theory arguably has a contribution to make here too. So perhaps an understanding of it is helpful in considering not just social welfare, but events further afield too.

Liz Jeffery, author of Understanding agency, publishing this month.

0 Responses to “Agency and social change”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Twitter Updates


Helen Kara

Writing and research

Peter Beresford's Blog

Musings on a Mad World

Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

Professor of Politics and Public Policy, University of Stirling

Path to the Possible

Democracy toward the Horizon


Governance: An international journal of policy, administration and institutions

Shot by both sides

The blog of Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP

Paul Collins's Running Blog

Running and London Marathon 2013 Training

Bristol Civic Leadership Project

A collaborative project on change in local governance

Stuck on Social Work

And what a great place to be

Points: The Blog of the Alcohol & Drugs History Society

short and insightful writing about a long and complex history

Urban policy and practice

Publishing with a purpose


Policy Politics Place


Publishing with a purpose

Public Administration Review

Public Administration Review is a professional journal dedicated to advancing theory and practice in public administration.

Publishing with a purpose

%d bloggers like this: