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New Rules of Sociological Method – Anthony Giddens

Sociology is not concerned with a pre-given universe of objects but with one that is constituted or produced by the active doings of subjects. Human beings transform nature socially and by humanizing it they transform themselves but they do not produce the natural world which is constituted as an object world independently of their existence.

The production and reproduction of society has to be treated as a skilled performance on the part of its members not as merely a mechanical series of processes.

The realm of human agency is bounded. Men produce society but they do so as historically located actors and not under conditions of their own choosing.

Structures must be conceptualized as simply placing constraints upon human agency but as enabling. This is the duality of structure. Structures can always in principle be examined in terms of their structuration as a series of reproduced practices.

Processes of structuration involve interplay of meanings, norms and power. These three concepts are analytically equivalent as the primitive terms of social science and are logically implicated both in the notion of intentional action and that of structure.

The sociological observer cannot make social life available as a phenomenon for observation independently of drawing upon his knowledge of it as a resource wherebyhe constitutes it as a topic for investigation. His position is no different from that of any other member of society; mutual knowledge is not a series of corrigible items but represents the interpretative schemes.

Immersion in a form of life is the necessary and only means whereby an observer is able to generate such characterizations. Immersion here means becoming a full member of the community.

Sociological concepts thus obey a double hermeneutic. Any generalized theoretical scheme in the natural or social sciences is in a certain sense a form of life in itself, the concepts of which have to be mastered as a mode of practical activity generating specific types of descriptions.

Sociology deals with a universe that is already constituted within frames of meaning by social actors themselves and reinterprets these within its own theoretical schemes mediating ordinary and technical language. This double hermeneutic is of considerable complexity since the connection is not merely a one way one there is continual slippage of the concepts constructed in sociology whereby these are appropriated by those conduct they were originally coined to analyse and hence tend to become integral features of that conduct.

The primary tasks of sociological analysis are the following

1.The hermeneutic explication and mediation of divergent forms of life within descriptive metalanguages of social science. 2.Explication of the production and reproduction of society as the accomplished outcome of the human agency.

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