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Coming to Terms with the Complementarity of Agent and Structure

PAQ, Vol. 29 No. 4, (2006)

This article questions how to conceptualize the relation
between different ontologies in the social sciences. Giddens’
Structuration Theory is analyzed as an example of an unifying theory
linking ©agent© and ©structure© ontologies. The concept of interaction is
used to pinpoint Giddens’ notion of the complementarity of these two.
The resulting abstract unification does, however, not result in a unified
social analysis. Rather it implies that we need to ©bracket© the one or the
other approach in empirical observation. This raises the question: What
is complementarity? In this article it is argued the notion of
complementarity as developed in quantum theory (Q-complementarity)
applies to the case at hand. Q-complementarity does not refer to the
possible simultaneous attribution of characteristics, but establishes the
validity of both attributes for describing reality depending on the
circumstances of observation.

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