Pluck and Culture Change

Wed, 24 Apr 1996 11:01:53 CST

I read, with interest, the reactions by W. Loker and T. Brunton to
"Pluck and Culture Change." They cite statements of faith in the
significance of "agency" by such luminaries as Bordieu, Giddens, and
Ortner. Do these authors' confessions of faith in agency differ, in a
way that can be made reasonably clear, from expressions of belief in
free will? Personally, I have been stimulated by bits of these peoples'
work; but these bits have not seemed dependent at all on "agency"
(e.g., Bordieu on cultural capital, Giddens on class structure, and
Ortner on key symbols). Let me suggest that whatever durable
contributions these writers prove to have made to social science will be
in spite, rather than because, of their belief that human behavior has
an inherently inexplicable component. That they hold such beliefs does
not demonstrate the scientific value of those beliefs. Indeed, I
sometimes wonder how much richer our science might be were such minds
liberated from the fetters of free-willism!--Bob Graber