Structuration and Convergence Theory

Term Paper, 2003

12 Pages, Grade: 1,3 (A)



1.) Anthony Giddens´ Structuration Theory
1.1) The Stratification Model of the Agent
1.2) Structure, System and Structuration
1.3) Dimensions of Structuration

2.) Convergence Theory – Kenneth Burke
2.1) The Concept of Dramatism
2.2) The “All-Purpose Word”: Guilt
2.3) Consubstantiality and Identification
2.4) The Pentad

3.) Symbolic Convergence Theory

4.) Conclusion

1.) Structuration Theory

1.1) The Stratification Model of the Agent

The main representant of Structuration Theory is Anthony Giddens who developed the idea of structuration in his book “The Constitution of Society” written in 1984. The theory wants to explain the ways in which social systems are produced and reproduced in social interaction. In contrast to other social theories, structuration theory claims to explain the relationship between the micro-societal and the macro-societal level. Giddens says that social life is not only explained by individual actions but can on the other hand neither be explained only by looking on macro-level social force. The central proclamation of structuration theory is that the repetition of individual acts reproduces social structures. This means, individuals act on the micro level in order to accomplish their intentions, but these actions have “unintended consequences of establishing structures that affect our future actions” (Littlejohn, 2002: 152). Like this, human beings can modify these structures by replacing them or reproducing the structures in a different way. Thus, structuration means studying the reproduction of individual face-to-face interactions on the societal level.

The reproductions of the structures is illustrated by Giddens´ so called “stratification model of the agent”.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

“Stratification Model of the Agent” (Giddens, 1984: 5)

At first, there is the motivation of the action, the reason why the agent acts. In the rationalization process, the agent adapts his action to his general theoretical understanding of the basis of his activity. Reflexive monitoring of action means that individuals monitor continously and routinely the social and physical contexts of their actions and the actions themselves. But this monitoring cannot prevent that the actions has some unintended consequences. These can modify the structures the action was placed in and then lead to new unacknowledged conditions of the action. These new conditions influence the following actions and like this close the continous circle.

1.2) Structure, System and Structuration

It is important to make clear the meaning of the three key terms of Giddens´ theory. The most important distinction he makes is the distinction between “structure”, “system” and “structuration”.

Systems in general are described as “patterns of relations in groupings of all kind” (Giddens, 1984: 131). Theses patterns have to be understood as the continous cycle of the reproduced relations. The relations are formed through repeated forms of actions that are created by the stratification model described above. Systems are created through the repeated actions and interactions of individuals.

Structure can be understood as rules and resources or sets of transformation relations that are organized as properties of social systems. Structures are built according to three different types of rules. These rules are procedural rules, moral rules and material resources. Procedural rules describe how the action is performed and delivered, moral rules tell the agents what is right and what is wrong to do. The material resources are the basic material conditions that underlie and define the whole social situation.

It is important to notice that Giddens believes that structures are nothing “external” to agents, but they can be understood as memory traces or instantiated in social practices. Structures can be related to one another in two different ways. The first one is called mediation. Mediation means “the production of one structure is accomplished by producing another” (Littlejohn, 2002: 153). In other words, if one structure is build up by the reproduction of social interactions, then another structure is mediated through this.

The second way is called contradiction and is a bit more complex than the first one. The process is the following: One structure shall be produced but the structure requires the existence of another structure that undermines the first one, this can be called a classical paradox situation where two contradictory elements clash and lead to system change.

Structuration means conditions governing the continuity or transmutation of structures and therefore the reproduction of social systems. In other words structuration is reproducing the structures within the social systems with the result to change the structures.

1.3) Dimensions of Structuration

After Giddens, structuration takes place in three different dimensions:

The first dimension is called interpretation and understanding. As structuration is the reproduction of structures and structures follow the three different rules described above, the dimension of structuration are oriented as well on the the rules that guide the structure reproduction. If an individual uses rules in social interaction in order to understand and interprete his social environment, then the structuration is to be classified into this first dimension called interpretation and understanding.

The second dimensionn is the sense of morality or proper conduct. Here, the individual uses rules in order to get to know what it should do and how it should behave in a specific social situation.

The third dimension is the sense of power in action. The individual uses rules in order to try to accomplish what it decided to do. If it has taken his decision, the individual behaves in a certain social situation according to rules he thinks are the best to obtain his goal and to fulfill his intention.

2.) Convergence Theory – Kenneth Burke

2.1) The Concept of Dramatism

Kenneth Burke has produced a very large variety of publications in a writing period of fifty years. Littlejohn (2002: 154) quotes Hugh Duncan by saying: “It may be said without exaggeration that anyone writing today on communication, however `original´ it may be, is echoing something said by Burke.”

As the main works of Burke can be seen his development of symbolic interaction theory and his resulting central concept of the so called “dramatism”. The most important point one has to state is the distinction between action and motion. Action in the Burkean sense means that an individual does something with a certain purpos. Also important for the concept of action is that the individual behaves voluntarily.

As the counterpart, motion is meant to be something done without purpose, the motion is non-meaningful. Therefore where there is action there is also motion. Animals can only exerce motion, only human beings can act in the Burkean sense of action.

Another key term in Burke´s theory is the concept of motives. Actions deal with basic forms of thought, those forams can be made prevalent through attributing motives. Motives are then a linguistic product of rhetorical action. Motives according to Burke are the particular way people understand events. Motive does not label the speaker´s purpose but must be understood as a completed action made up of linguistic products.

Burke defines his whole concept of dramatism as follows: "Dramatism is a method of analysis and a corresponding critique of terminology designed to show that the most direct route to the study of human relations and human motives is via a methodological inquiry into cycles or clusters of terms and their functions." (source: internet)


Excerpt out of 12 pages


Structuration and Convergence Theory
University of Erfurt  (Communication Science)
Intercultural Communication
1,3 (A)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
622 KB
Structuration, Convergence, Theory, Intercultural, Communication
Quote paper
Julia L. Modenbach (Author), 2003, Structuration and Convergence Theory, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Look inside the ebook
Title: Structuration and Convergence Theory

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free