Jan 26: Agency

According to the Theory Toolbox, the simplest definition of agency is “the power do something.” While we may each have our own power to do something that we desire, the agency to do so is determined by contextual sources instead of “from within.” It’s important in helping us develop who we are, but our agency is not without limit. The book cites wealth, racial identity, and career choices as examples of a factor and/or representation of ones agency. What are some other examples that could hint or reveal someone’s supposed agency? Why does that example supposedly give someone more or less power to do something?

3 thoughts on “Jan 26: Agency

  1. The way one dresses controls our agency in our social interactions with one another. Say for example you went to a cafe in a business district location where the average customer wears a suit and you are dressed in ripped jeans and a t-shirt. This could cause the staff to use their power (authority) to give you poor service or deny it (dress code) and the other patrons may be less likely to engage you in conversation. The other side of this would be a cafe located near a college campus where the expectations of the customer (the constraint/control of cafe) are not as limited or strict. The agency of your appearance wouldn’t be a contextual issue in its power to influence your desire to enjoy a cafe.

  2. For the section on “Agency” in the “Theory Toolbox” I believe education could be used as an example to reveal or hint at someone’s level of agency. With the example of education, someone who has been educated from various schools that are considered esteemed is more likely to have greater agency in a situation that requires skill and intellect, rather than someone who is uneducated or has an education, but not from admired institutions. While this bias is wrong is certain cases, I feel it shows the larger agency a person with the “better” education would have over the others, as the knowledge with larger agency is considered to be superior. For example, when applying for a certain position in a company the boss, who holds authority, would favor the work of someone who has a degree from the University with the most respected educators of that position. The quality of someone’s education is contextual to instances in one’s life like job applications and could possible influence other people’s perceptions of respect and reliability.

  3. Another factor that could hint at ones agency, especially today, would be religion. For example, Muslims do not have the same agency as Christians, especially in America. Muslims would probably be given less power to do some of the same things as a Christian, because of the fear surrounding terrorism in the Middle east. They are often treated differently by the general public because of that fear; being singled out by appearance and the subjects of hate. On a larger scale, a Muslim is extremely unlikely to become the president of America. This is an example of how one’s agency is determined by the context surrounding the agent. America was founded on Christianity and associates Islam with terrorism. Therefore the agency of a Muslim in America, has more limitations then that of a Christian.

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