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Palgrave Studies in Relational Sociology

Theory Beyond Structure and Agency

Introducing the Metric/Nonmetric Distinction

Authors: Guy, Jean-Sébastien

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  • Introduces metric and nonmetric to replace structure and agency, a distinction used in sociology, social anthropology, political science, history, and human geography
  • Creates a framework that replaces “fixed” distinctions with a fluid approach to a variety of social realities
  • Engages with classical and contemporary theorists in sociology and beyond
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eBook 58,84 €
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  • ISBN 978-3-030-18983-9
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Hardcover 72,79 €
price for Spain (gross)
  • ISBN 978-3-030-18982-2
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Immediate ebook access, if available*, with your print order
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About this book

This book offers a solution for the problem of structure and agency in sociological theory by developing a new pair of fundamental concepts: metric and nonmetric. Nonmetric forms, arising in a crowd made out of innumerable individuals, correspond to social groups that divide the many individuals in the crowd into insiders and outsiders. Metric forms correspond to congested zones like traffic jams on a highway: individuals are constantly entering and leaving these zones so that they continue to exist, even though the individuals passing through them change. Building from these concepts, we can understand “agency” as a requirement for group identity and group membership, thus associating it with nonmetric forms, and “structure” as a building-up effect following the accumulation of metric forms. This reveals the contradiction between structure and agency to be a case of forced perspective, leaving us victim to an optical illusion.

About the authors

Jean-Sébastien Guy is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, where he teaches classical and contemporary theory. He has published on globalization, Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory and relational sociology.

Reviews

“In this insightful and highly readable book, Jean-Sébastien Guy takes us on an intellectual tour de force that makes us see the social world in a different light. The dreadful opposition between agency and structure has haunted social theory for too long – it is turned crosswise to realize: What we call social structures are really just social forms that balance one’s agency against that of others. Guy builds on philosopher Manuel DeLanda and systems theorist Niklas Luhmann to distinguish between two kinds of social forms: “Nonmetric” forms define and divide identities, like groups or social categories. “Metric forms”, like science or the economy, construct symbolic universes without attention to individuals. This distinction makes for a complex geometry of the social world based on how communication is organized, how social space is defined, and how individuals are dealt with. Guy gives us a fresh perspective and an essential contribution to the current discussions of social systems and relational sociology.” (Jan A. Fuhse, Heisenberg Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany)

“In this original and provocative book, Jean-Sebastien Guy convincingly shows how the problem of structure and agency that has preoccupied sociologists throughout the history of their discipline amounts to an optical illusion. Employing the concepts of the metric and the nonmetric and using a variety of readily accessible examples, the author proposes an entirely different social theoretical lens that is perceptive to the internal variety of social reality.” (Olli Pyyhtinen, Professor of Sociology at the University of Tampere, Finland)

Table of contents (8 chapters)

Table of contents (8 chapters)

Buy this book

eBook 58,84 €
price for Spain (gross)
  • ISBN 978-3-030-18983-9
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: EPUB, PDF
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover 72,79 €
price for Spain (gross)
  • ISBN 978-3-030-18982-2
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Immediate ebook access, if available*, with your print order
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
  • The final prices may differ from the prices shown due to specifics of VAT rules

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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Theory Beyond Structure and Agency
Book Subtitle
Introducing the Metric/Nonmetric Distinction
Authors
Series Title
Palgrave Studies in Relational Sociology
Copyright
2019
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan
Copyright Holder
The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s)
eBook ISBN
978-3-030-18983-9
DOI
10.1007/978-3-030-18983-9
Hardcover ISBN
978-3-030-18982-2
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XIII, 277
Number of Illustrations
6 b/w illustrations
Topics

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