Friday, February 22, 2008

Language, Structure, Duality

It is important for us to make the distinction between language as words and the language that is culture. Cultures are related to specific languages, and at the same time culture IS a language by which we make sense of identity and social reality.

The anti-essentialists say that the self is fractured and not unified; that identity is fractured, and constructed by discourse. What do we understand by this?

If subjects appear to be products rather than producers, how can we account for human agency which we have identified as necessary for social action and change?

The same structures that enable us, constrain us.
This is the ‘duality of structure’ and is central to Giddens’ structuration theory.
Give some of your own examples to illustrate how you make sense of this notion of duality.


Anonymous said...

i think you can say that knowledge is largely socially constructed except perhaps for some things which are always the same regardless of human input. in this sense everything is created by discourse so it would make sense to say that identity is constructed by discourse. i think you only need to look as far as yourself to see that identities are fractured, because everybody reacts to particular socail situations differently. for instance, you are bound to act in a slightly different manner if say, you were watching a soccer game with your friends or if you were having a discussion with your gran about her favourite kind of dried fruit.

so we're products of our society and the way we've been socialised. That means we're the result of a bunch of stuff that came before us. But we are intelligent beings who have the capacity to change our own reality in whichever way we see fit. there are various consequences of our actions and so forth but we're always progressing (and producing) in some way or another. i think the problem lies in mass conscious. people don't like to go against the need a lot of people to have real effect and the most difficult thing is being the first to criticise the norms of society.

i really like the idea of the 'duality of structure'. to me it makes perfect sense. i don;t know if this is a good example, but what about the methods of teaching in high school as contrsted to university? in high school they teach you how to remember but not to think. so it enables you to get good grades while you're there but constrains your thought patterns to the structure of the school system.

william smyly

Anonymous said...

"The same structure that enables us, constrain us". this is a very interesting culture has given me my identity and sense of belonging. the foundation of my ways of lfe is rooted in my culture. what i make sense of this statement is that culture, our patterns of activties and behavoiur, as much as it can shape us and give us a direction of daily living, it also constrain us by limiting us and restricing us through the certain norms and values whch we must conform to. for exampe , our dress codes- in some cultures women may only wear dresses and skirts and not trouseres or pants, some women must always cover their hair, in short culture does not give much freedom of choice to its memebers.


KimyaShafinaaz said...

hi there

@ Will.. I find your discussion really thoughtprovoking! Your example, if we had to break it down, lends us yet further questions.. I mean.. the same conformity that we rely on in schools to give us some focus and structure, can become a noose that constrains us from progressing.. why? because we come to rely on conforming to trends..popular trends or even fitting into forms of behaviour that are outdated (like holding onto old prejudices and assumptions without questioning them!) we hold onto our comfort zones and sit tight in our little boxes and REFUSE to break out, to think outside-the-bOx! what are we AFRAiD of???

@ Loretta.. good discussion on the duality of structure and culture.. so then we ask further, if there are various constraints then where do we look for the space for resisting? or rather the opportunity to think for ourselves?

Anonymous said...

Honestly i agree with the phrase that state that, "culture is a Language by which we make sense of identity and social reality ".In other words culture defines who you are and the population you belong too.Different cultures restrict or limite people in different ways.For example most culture restrict women from wearing pants.Another example is an example that i qouted in class that "In Zulu culture men are allowed to merry more than one women but in other cultures like (Indians)that is totally wrong.

so at the end of the day ,the language ,colour and the dress cort is part of our culture and it defines our identity.(206519031)Mondli

riona said...

structures are placed in society to provide rules and regulation it determines how one should behave in society.....however at the same time we a conscious and subjective beings who provide interpretations towards the social can costrain as well as enable us.....similiar to language and the words that we use helps us communicate to those around us but at the same time not everyone speaks the same language or understands and interpret the language in the same way.

adrian said...

In response to "does our culture or society make us what we are?"...i believe to truely understand this we need to distinguish between culture and society….and in my opinion on this vast topic i suggest, that culture, is indeed our norms, scanctions and belief systems that shape us as individuals in our primary stages of socialization were these norms values and scanctions are transmitted to us by our parents, and family. However when we look at society, we should think of it as a secondary stage of our socialization process,wereby we are left vulnerable to outside influences, value systems, norms and sanctions (that are of a questionable nature). So in short it is our society that opens up endless possibilities for us and then again because our culture is so limiting and fixed, it tends to govern our behaviour and every step. So with the help and combination of these two powerful factors an average individual is able to make an authoritive decision, as to whether or not s/he will b a conformist or nonconformist, and then there are some who will use elements from both these stages of socialization to shape themselves! in light of the above question it becomes quiet debatable to choose btwn culture and society!!! So y do we have to choose?! Y cant elements of culture and society make us what we are!!!! frm the student who raised the is issue of a counter culture...adrian n. n 204005469

Shabash said...

I definitely agree that the surrounding context supports the type of performance that is portrayed. Ive found that human behaviour conforms to many things in order to just belong. And if this pattern of conformity continues over extended period then attempts to fit in ( i.e belong) just become unconscious. i.e we can become rather docile at times.

Having said that I think human nature delivers incredible opportunity for agency. And when we tune into the way certain things make us FEEL that’s when agency can really take a stand. Even when we ‘conform’ to difficult situations (like mass bureaucratic education systems or religious/ traditional norms that make no sense), feelings of anger, annoyance, desire, resentment, still linger. Sometimes we can work at ignoring them but sometimes Agency happens and we turn these feeling into questions …. Critical Questions that requires pushing the boundaries for meaning.

So for me identity = the external message meeting the internal (feelings) = Reactive behaviour or Intellectual organizations based on critical engagement.

Ashton said...

I think a great way to make sense of the 'duality of structure' is to look at various institutions and the way in which they have both enabled and constrained us. The school as and institutions, was looked at previously. I think the family is also a good example for me specifically.

In my family i have been taught to think for myself and to question the system...becasue this is largely a part of my family. This 'enabled' me to learn to be critical of a certain aspect of my culture (such as the domestic role of a women). However, My family has also 'constrained' me. For example...they have particular conditions for their choice in who a good life partner would be for me. Certain aspects or conditions that they have set for a good potential life partner, i have even internalised. Thus i am constrained.


Anonymous said...

“The same structures that enable us, constrain us.”
I think we shouldn’t look at structure or the constraining part of it in a bad way… the truth of the matter is, without the constraining aspect of structure there would be no order, it would be quite chaotic. People would do what they want when they with no repercussions.

Structure, provides rules and roles however they require the interpretation of those who follow them in order for the structure to be realized.

Structure enables: agents only become agents by becoming enculturated and socialized into a culture, without certain rules and roles, certain forms of identity would not be possible.

Example: im not sure if this is a very good one, it’s all I could think of at the time…some motor cars have a speed limit (barometers) of up to 260k/hr but on the road you can only drive 120k/hr, or else you will pay the price. They give you the freedom/opportunity to ‘fly’ on the road but they don’t allow you to do so.

If my example is wrong, plz show how I can use it but in the correct way.

thobile gumede

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of culture 'constraining' us. Although I think constrain is a bit harsh & has negative connotations to it. I would rather use the words 'rules' & 'regulations' these are good. I think people/ the world without rules would result to absolute chaos. It is not acceptable for people to not know right from wrong, what they can and can not do or do as they please. It's my opinion that there has to be some system to lead the way to acceptable behaviour. Chaos would drive individuals to experience 'anomie' what sociologists term a social condition where norms and values are conflicting, weak or absent. Just as the mass variety of identities & stereotypes is doing to society. I agree that people must have a right to express themselves the way they want, but I think if there was only one identity or stereotype, it would be a lot easier to live in the world.

Precious Majola

Anonymous said...

Human agency allows us to act on the same structures that influence us. For example within the gender structure, men are considered the breadwinners of the family. Women are seen as housewives who are meant to take of the children and do the cooking. However recently these structures have been altered as more and more women have been entering the working world due to the need for more income. Therefore women these days are working parents as they hold down a job and take care of their children. Through human agency, the gender structure is now allowing women to hold down a job as well as take care of their children


Anonymous said...

Agree with the above comment, that the structure are changing but patriachy idelogies are still dominant rural arean man. This man still have ideas that they are the head of the house and the women is not suppose to work or to become indepent. Women in the rural areas are face with this conflicts that influences them to obey the men in everyway. I'm not saying that giving respect to a man is wrong but when a man is treating like 'a thing' that doesn't have feelings, there is where is wrong for me. In some insitance human agency play a big roles because this women voice the voice ibto the society and the people around the.

Nompe Ntombela 206506799

Anonymous said...

society is made up of different individuals that think differently, react and experience things differently. structures exist in society because they create order, stability and coherence when it comes to peoples actions and behaviour. for example a doctors or lawyers child will be confined to certain rules of the society they live in. this is simply because society expects and contrains us in a certain way. what may be wrong for them maybe seem correct for another individual from a different class in society.


Anonymous said...

culture is a language that speeks for itself. Culture emphasises which race group one belongs to, the manner in which they dress, also their religious beliefs. Language differentiates one culture from another and sometimes it puts constraints on the extent to which people communicate and interact with one another. CHERRY,T 206503196

N.Khan said...

Culture gives people an identity and a sense of belonging. In everyday life we listen to people proudly using the language that is of their culture. On campus you may have people of different cultures identifying with each other and when one is alone or in need they will try to identify someone that is off the same culture as them for assistance.


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

I would like to argue the fact that language is a key signifier of our cultural identities and we use language to communicate to those around us. So I tend to use the English language to communicate to those who don't understand my home language. Structure is there to mould us, so that we adapt to certain ways of cultural practice, for example, our family structure might teach us about the importance of respect. Duality concept tries to explain the point that individuals have the ability to respond a certain way to different situations. For example I’m able to adapt to different cultural practices when I’m way from home. Further more I can respond well to western cultural practices when I’m in the mix of non-African people.

Anonymous said...

I personally believes that culture constraining us. Culture gives people a sense of belonging and thus it brings people together just like language, and I can not emagine of a world without culture.
Our culture helps us to understand each other in a better way and thus helping us to be one.

Different cultures has different restrictions or different believes and people follow that for example in other cultures like Zulu showing out your breasts as a young lady from initiation school is not a problem wheas in my culture breasts is one of the body part which it is a taboo to show them out.


Anonymous said...

culture helps shape our identities in a huge way!it shapes our thoughts, behaviour, atitudes and so on. it is sort of a guid for life. although they may provide us with understanding about our gender, race etc they may also constrain us. as children we are taught basic behaviour that are hard to shake off when older.


Anonymous said...

structure and society play a huge role in our existence. they enable but also limit us.they play a role in our identities and how we and others view us. structure influences almost everypart of our lives, from our families to our jobs. it is therefore very difficult to brekaway fron structure.


Anonymous said...

Cultures were formed by people who grouped together and all shared many common beliefs and characteristics, the most important often being religion. A sense of belonging and being part of a community made one feel safe and not alone, which is important to people as we are social creatures. Generations born into these cultures were often forced to accept the values and norms or risked being cast out and ostracized. Being part of a culture enables us by affording us a safety net of commonality in this big, scary world. It also constrains us with certain unspoken rules that are archaic by today’s standards, such as the negativity focused at Hindi and Tamil romantic relationships in the Indian community, or if you are not affluent you are considered low class and are treated with no respect.

M Hemrajh

Anonymous said...

I think that that we will always be subjects and producers because as subjects we do not always absorb the new idea but assimilate it with what we may believe which will give rise to a new that we have actively produced, accounting for human agency. When we come into contact with new cultures we realize or come into contact with something that we find that we can identify with and come to the realization that our culture constrains us, as it does not allow us to express ourselves the way we desire but must express ourselves through our culture. Example of duality is when you are not allowed to wear pants as a female in your culture and you see other cultures wearing pants and you feel constrained.

206516466 (Ngema)

Alyn said...

Well said.