Enabling Constraints

The last chapter of the Theory Toolbox was probably my favorite chapter of the whole book, and that’s not just because it meant I wouldn’t have to read it anymore. It was my favorite because the discussions of agency brought up thoughts pertaining to action and reaction within certain societal situations. The decisions we make are a result of the context within which we are making decisions, and are based off of what we have been taught our whole lives, where we are, who we’re with, and many other social factors. The way the book explains it, our agency is “constrained and enabled by the contexts in which we find ourselves”, what we decide to do being based off a context outside of our control. I thought it interesting, then, to think that where I decide to go or who I decide to go hangout with is not based off of an idea I myself have had, but is constrained by the situation and “context” I happen to be in.

While this may be true, my agency and power I have over my life is also at the same time enabled by the contexts within which I live. This is because while powers and authorities tell me to do certain things and live a certain way, these kinds of constraints do not just lead to my obedience and repression. Power at the same time warrants a response. While there are laws in place that make it illegal to drink alcohol under the age of 21 or possess a false form of identification, people still go out, buy one, and proceed to use it and thusly get an MIP. But why, when they know that there are consequences they are very aware of? I believe it is because while people are subject to their historical context, and the fact that they can’t do something like drink before a certain age, they don’t want to just be “subject” to their situation. They want to be master of it, and somehow be in control of the subject positions they occupy. This leads to my conclusion that while we are severely effected by our social and societal situations, our actions are not just constrained, but enabled by them, because people will always be trying to break out of them and do something different.

One Response to Enabling Constraints

  1. Prof VZ February 7, 2016 at 11:13 am #

    Indeed — one can’t imagine a world without constrains just as one can’t imagine a world without language: it’s a structure that certainly constrains what I say (I have to follow rules and use words in order to convey meaning) but it is also tremendously empowering. An urban scene offers the same set of constraints on one’s movement, and they even encourage certain flows and directions. But one is empowered within those constraints. And I like your example about power: power is, obviously, constraining, but it is often note despite but in direct relation to those constraints that we act. Constrains inspire our own agency, in other words.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes