History and Historians

Structures, Agency, and a Bleg


Or, An Apprentice Scholar’s (narcissistic) Lament

Ran across this the other day, and thought it worth “commonplacing”:

Ultimately, I hoped to show that we should not think of “agency” and “structure” as rivals, or even as being mutually exclusive. As I state in the last paragraph of the book, “The constraints and structures of any particular period are, however, often the creation of a previous generation’s political agents. In the short term, politics is, in fact, a world of constraints, but to agents willing to wait for effects that may not emerge for decades, the world is full of opportunity.” Agents have to operate in a world of structures. But if they have a long time horizon, they can create new structures, which will then act to constrain the next generation of agents. And so on.

~Steven Teles, “Response,” Crooked Timber, 1 May 2009, describing one of the themes of his book The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law (PUP, 2008).

Continue reading “Structures, Agency, and a Bleg”