L’objectif de cet article est de présenter les concepts et la démarche de la théorie de la structuration d’Anthony Giddens. L’idée fondamentale du modèle de structuration des systèmes sociaux proposé par cet auteur est que les structures, ensemble de règles et de ressources, organisent les activités tout autant que les activités les organisent et leur donnent du sens et une finalité. Cette dualité de l’organisé et de l’organisant débouche sur une conception pertinente de l’action, de la coordination et du changement organisationnel ; elle permet notamment de « faire le pont » entre les dynamiques de structuration individuelles et les dynamiques de structuration collectives.
The Theory of Structuring: An Analysis of Organizational Forms and Dynamics
Anthony Giddens’s theory of structuring lays out a renewed conceptual framework for social systems analysis. One of the essential concepts of this analysis is the duality of the structural. That means, in particular, that the rules and the resources mobilized in the individual’s and community’s action are, at the same time, both result and condition of the action. For Giddens, the study of the structuring of social systems is the study of the modes by which these systems, which are anchored in the activities of qualified actors, located in time and space and which make use of the rules and the resources in a diversity of contexts of action, are produced and reproduced in the interaction of these actors, and by it. Consequently, this idea leads to a reinterpretation of the concept of structure and structural constraint: the structures, because they are produced and reproduced, are simultaneously constituted and constituent.
The theory of structuring is based on three fundamental statements. The first begins with the assertion that in any social system, the interactions between actors are structured and structuring. This disjunction between “structuring” and “structured” makes it possible to propose a relevant distinction between “structure” and “system”.The second statement indicates that the structural is comprised of three dimensions: (1) A semantic dimension which allows agents, defined as qualified actors, to give direction to their actions as well as to their relations; (2) A dimension of power and domination which lies in the faculty to deploy continuously, in everyday life, a battery of causal capacities, including the one of influencing the causal capacities deployed by other agents; (3) A legitimation dimension of action which means that human actions are carried out according to rules, and that compliance with the rules legitimates these actions.
The third statement takes into account the interaction between the social actors. This interaction between qualified actors is comprised of a structural part and a systemic part. The structural part refers to the development in space and time of regularized models of relations that reproduce individual and collective activities. The systemic part refers to any social system, such as the organized space of recurring relations between individual or collective actors.
Thus this approach leads to a structure concept, such as, all the rules and resources mobilized by the interactions between the social actors, while the system indicates all the activities reproduced and organized as regular social practices. Just as they are the condition of the activity, the structures of an organization do not exist independently of the activities of the individuals who invest them. The feedback structures (activities) finality is at the heart of the duality of the structural and the systemic paradigm. It expresses the fact that in an organization, a system of actions, individual and/or collective actors mobilizes rules and resources to produce and reproduce their activities in contexts of special time and space and for shared purposes.
According to this meaning, the organizational fact emerges, on the one hand, from the requirement of coordination of the actions and, on the other hand, as a means of reducing the undecidability of intentions, i.e. the uncertainty attached to any form of action. The duality model of Giddens’s structural theory makes the organization a system of finalized and hierarchical activities carried out by collective figures of coordination of the action. Conventions, rules, procedures and routines are the supports of this coordination.
This conceptual framework makes it possible to found a concept of rule such as a behaviour framework entitling and constraining, or a resource and form of the action. It also makes it possible to leave to qualified actors a capacity of adaptation, and thus of interpretation, of the rule at the same time as it makes a practicable process of it. A practicable rule is a rule which takes part in the reduction of the complexity of the action contexts. It is selective in the representation of the variables of the environment to consider, it simplifies the field of the possible behaviours. It is precisely the intentionality contained in the rule which realizes it and which determines the concrete methods of its implementation. So the existence of rules saves the mobilization of the cognitive capacities of the participants in the action.
The fundamental epistemological concern of the author of “the formation of society” is to go beyond the structure/action cleavage. He tries to bind the ideas of structure and action in an indissociable way, particularly by replacing the concept of structure by one “of structural sets”, these latter being space-time located demonstrations and based on all the rules and the resources engaged in the institutional articulation of the social systems.
Consequently, Giddens succeeds in going beyond the dualism between individualist and holist methodological postures by means of a definition of the organization through interindividual relations. Two imperialisms are thus reassessed: the one of the individual subject on the one hand, and the other being that of structural constraints, presented by the structuralist and functionalist approaches. Thus, the theory of structuring conceptualizes a new the opposition between subjectivism and objectivism by proposing a new duality that expresses structured character and structuring interactions.
La teoría de la estructuración: un análisis de las formas y dinámicas organizacionales
El objetivo de este artículo es de presentar los conceptos y el procedimiento de la teoría de la estructuración de Anthony Giddens. La idea fundamental del modelo de la estructuración de sistemas sociales propuesto por este autor es que las estructuras, conjunto de reglas y recursos, organizan las actividades de la misma manera como las actividades organizan aquellas y aquellos otorgándoles sentido y finalidad. Esta dualidad del organizado y del organisante desemboca en una concepción pertinente de la acción, de la coordinación y del cambio organizacional; esto permite particularmente de «tender el puente» entre las dinámicas individuales de estructuración y las dinámicas colectivas de estructuración.