Mediating agency and structure in sociology: What role for conversion factors?
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionHvinden, B. & Halvorsen, R. (2017). Mediating agency and structure in sociology: What role for conversion factors? Critical Sociology. doi: 10.1177/0896920516684541 http://doi.org/10.1177/0896920516684541
The article argues that the Capability Approach can enrich sociology’s capacity to link human agency and structure in dynamic analyses of social inequality and marginality. While many read the Capability Approach as excessively individualistic, the validity of this view is less obvious if we take into account the key role of conversion processes in this approach. People’s possibilities to convert given resources into valued functionings do not lonely depend on individual characteristics (e.g. having a physical or mental impairment) but also on the multi-layered structures (e.g. of a physical, attitudinal, social or political nature) they face. Conversion processes can help us to capture the factors hampering or enabling human agency (individual and collective) – and of the transformation of such factors. As empirical case, the paper discusses the efforts of persons with disabilities to combat exclusion and achieve full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.