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    Rethinking agency: a phenomenological approach to embodiment and agentic capacities

    Coole, Diana (2005) Rethinking agency: a phenomenological approach to embodiment and agentic capacities. Political Studies 53 (1), pp. 124-142. ISSN 0032-3217.

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    Agency has been central to modern conceptions of politics but it is a complicated and contested idea that seems to have fallen into both theoretical and historical crisis. I explore the underlying ideas that have grounded it, as well as some recent historical and theoretical challenges. I respond by advocating an ontological agnosticism regarding who or what exercises agency and suggest a spectrum of agentic capacities instead. Commending a phenomenological approach, I then suggest that agentic capacities emerge and interact across this spectrum. At one pole I envisage pre- personal, corporeal processes and at the other, a transpersonal, intersubjective interworld that requires a novel social ontology. I locate individual or collective agents in the middle of the spectrum where they emerge as contingent singularities. My aim here is to retain agency as a necessary ingredient of politics while eliminating the Cartesian presuppositions that have, for example, rendered the agency-structure debate irresolvable and supported a subjectivist account of agents that is no longer tenable. I show how all three dimensions of the spectrum have political significance and discuss examples to illustrate this.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences
    Depositing User: Sarah Hall
    Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2017 16:07
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:35


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