Being able to act otherwise: The role of agency in the four flows at 2-1-1 and beyond

Joel O. Iverson, Robert D. McPhee, Cade W. Spaulding

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Agency has a long history of philosophical discussion, especially pertaining to issues that used to be associated with the philosophy of action in the 1960s and 1970s (see Emirbayer & Mische, 1998). Among the issues important then were reasons for actions, multiple descriptions of acts in different contexts (“killing a petty thief” versus “self-defense”), and communicative intent in relation to meaning and the illocutionary force of speech acts (see McPhee & Iverson, 2002). As the recognition grew that communication is a social practice, attention shifted from individual acts to ongoing, coordinated, contingent agency-emphasizing abilities to make the sort of difference in the flow of conduct and communication that humans prototypically make (Cohen, 1989). Such agency depends both on external connections and constraints, and on human powers of understanding, intent, and skill. Recognition of agency within the flow of social conduct also requires recognizing that the link between purpose and outcome is shaky at best-good intentions may be misunderstood; thwarted by power limitations of all sorts; prone to schedule conflict, delay, and abandonment; and mixed with reasons that are less than admirable (see also Chapter 4).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Agency of Organizing
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives and Case Studies
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781317223245
ISBN (Print)9781138655201
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


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