Structuration and Enacted Social Systems

  • Elizabeth W. Garnsey
  • Séamas B. Kelly


Giddens’ theory of structuration (1984) represents one of the most influential developments in social theory in recent years. His work focuses on the dialectic interplay between agency and structure within social systems, and has provided the basis for a number of recent empirical studies of organisational life (Walsham, 1993; Roberts, 1990; Barley, 1986). However, the use of this theory in empirical research can be fraught with difficulty. The concepts employed by Giddens are subtle and rich in insight but they are also prone to misinterpretation and distortion. In this paper we make use of the idea of enactment which, we argue, an approach to the study of social life, which is conceptually simpler and more intuitive than that of structuration theory. The enactment approach enables us to draw on the insights of structuration theory and couch them within a systems framework.


Structuration Theory System Thinking Soft System Methodology Recent Empirical Study Enactment Approach 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth W. Garnsey
    • 1
  • Séamas B. Kelly
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Engineering and The Judge Institute of Management StudiesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeEngland

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