(Don’t) Ask a Sociologist Episode 2: What is Agency and Structures?


We’re back with our (Don’t) Ask a Sociologist series, where we try to answer seemingly simple questions from listeners! This week’s question is: What is “agency,” and how is it different from “structures”? These are two words we tend to throw around willy-nilly, so let’s break both down together! If you have your own question to ask, don’t be shy and send it to us. We’d love to try to answer it!


Agency, structures


  • We define agency as the ability of people to act on their own accord and independence
  • Structure is the patterned systems of society that impact and assign the choices (or opportunities) available to individuals.
  • Here’s a helpful article from 1998 by Mustafa Emirbayer and Ann Miche that answers the question, What Is Agency?
  • Here’s that Devil Wears Prada scene Ellen was talking about!
  • Curious about the illusion of choice in consumer brands? Look at this.

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