Anthony Giddens

Since the concept of left-wing and right-wing politics came into existence, theorists have attempted to navigate through it and create a stable centre that pulls the benefits from both sides while avoiding the many pitfalls of sliding too far in either direction. 

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    Anthony Giddens is one such theorist, and his work in sociology and political theory has significantly impacted contemporary politics, particularly during his time as an advisor to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Having authored over 30 books and 200 articles, Giddens is responsible for developing structuration theory and Third Way theory and is considered one of the more influential voices in socialist thought today.

    Figure 1. Anthony Giddens. StudySmarterFigure 1. Anthony Giddens, LSE, Wikimedia Commons

    Anthony Giddens Biography

    Anthony Giddens was born to a lower-middle-class family in Edmonton, North London, on January 18, 1938. His father was a clerical officer at London Transport and kept very few books at home. However, Giddens was able to pass the 11-plus exam, making him eligible to attend Minchenden Grammar School.

    He attended Hull University, where he studied sociology and psychology and completed his master's degree at the London School of Economics (LSE). In 1961 he received his PhD from Cambridge University and began teaching at the University of Leicester in 1963. In 1969 he started teaching at the University of Cambridge, where he helped form the Social and Political Sciences Committee, now known as the Faculty of Human, Social and Political Science

    He was a fundamental player in creating the New Labour Party in the UK and became an unofficial political advisor for Tony Blair throughout his premiership from 1997 - 2007. During this time, Giddens also served as the London School of Economics director from 1997 to 2003. During this time, Giddens also served as the London School of Economics director from 1997 to 2003. In 2004 he became a life peer and was appointed to the House of Lords as a Baron. Today he is an emeritus professor at LSE.

    Anthony Giddens Books

    As noted earlier, Anthony Giddens has written over 30 books and 200 articles in his lifetime; as of now, He has, on average, written one book a year for the last 30 years, with his work being translated into at least 25 languages. Much of his thought is taught today in sociology classrooms around the globe. In his books, he introduces novel sociology theories and criticises past sociological work by prominent figures, including Marx and Weber. He has an interdisciplinary approach to his work, using psychology, political science, economics, history, and philosophy, to develop his ideas. Most of his work can be separated into three stages of his career.

    1st Stage

    In this career stage, he reinterpreted classic sociologist theories by being critical of past theories and ideologies while also re-examining the basis of society and sociology. The works that most stand out during this period are Capitalism and Modern Social Theory (1971) and New Rules of Sociological Method (1976).

    2nd Stage

    In this stage, he developed the Theory of Structuration. Some books written to establish and further detail his theory are Central Problems in Social Theory (1979) and the Constitution of Society (1964). During this period, he starts gaining worldwide attention due to his unique socialist theories.

    3rd Stage

    He focused on modernity, globalisation, and politics at this career stage. Here he criticises post-modernity and the impact of modernity on individuals. During this point, he developed a modernity theory in which he believed that modernity is measured by the progress of capitalism, industrialism, administrative power, and military power. However, this stage also resulted in the formation of his highly controversial political theory, referred to as the Third Way, inspired by Utopian Realism. The important works in this period include Consequence of Modernity (1990), Modernity and Self-Identity (1991), The Transformation of Sincerity (1992), Beyond Left and Right (1994) and The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy (1998).

    Anthony Giddens Structuration Theory

    One of Anthony Giddens' most influential ideas is structuration theory. In short, Giddens developed structuration theory to refute previous attempts at describing the relationship between the small (micro) and the large (macro). A recurring theme in sociology, political philosophy, psychology, and many other social sciences is attempting to reconcile the micro with the macro and explaining the relationship between agency and structure.

    Think about the concept of "us" (macro) and "I" (micro) for a moment. In some situations, what is good for "us" is also good for "I"; sometimes, what is good for "us" is bad for "I", and what is bad for "us" is good for "I". In essence, structuration theory explores this relationship and tries to explain how it works in the complicated real world of politics and culture.

    Agency: an individual's ability to act on the world in a manner that they see fit.

    Structure: refers to the complex boundaries that we exist within as humans in the social world. An example of a structure is the state.

    Therefore, Giddens' structuration theory describes the relationship between agency (micro) and structure (macro) as a "duality of structure."

    The duality of structure is the heart of structuration theory. It argues that we as individuals produce and continue structures and that structures also produce the boundaries of the individual's agency and possible actions. The best way to visualise this is to think about your relationship with the state. Do you produce the state, or does the state produce you? When you are born, you do not come up with all of your ideas about morality, success, love, or anything else by sitting in your room thinking about them all day.

    Instead, you are taught these things as you grow up by your parents, school, media, friends, and society at large. This is the state (the structure) working to create your identity and set lines you are not supposed to cross (this is law and crime). On the other hand, you can disagree with these teachings and actively push for change; this is you exercising agency and changing the structure. Structuration theory looks at this relationship and says that because there is this constant push and pull between agency and structure, one does not create the other. Still, they act in unison to produce both agency and structure, hence the word "duality" in the duality of structure. For Giddens, agency and structure cannot be separated; they are two sides of the same coin.

    Anthony Giddens Globalisation

    Anthony Giddens' view on globalisation deals with how its consequences affect us daily. Giddens believes that globalisation has two main consequences: risk consciousness and detraditionalisation.

    Risk Consciousness

    Giddens believes that globalisation is destabilising and unpredictable (syn), which causes our anxieties to grow, leading the way to polarising opinions and expert systems.

    Expert Systems: using experts in fields to guide our day-to-day decisions.

    Due to this, we are bombarded with competing information making us even more risk conscientious, proving even more true if they are manufactured risks, like nuclear disasters or global warming.

    Manufactured Risks: man-made risks caused by the emergence of new technologies and scientific knowledge.

    Most problems caused by globalisation require an international effort to be adequately addressed. However, addressing these problems may be impossible in the current global political climate. Giddens proposes two possible routes individuals may take in response to this issue: identity politics or apolitical apathy. With identity politics, the individual identifies with issues of political importance and decides to take matters into their own hands by joining political movements and changing their daily lifestyle and identity to deal with the rising awareness of problems related to globalisation.

    Let's consider how some clothing companies exploit labour in third-world countries. We have seen on the news how damaging it is to labourers and how unjust this practice is; we are now conscious of risks. Seeing no coordinated action, we decide to take matters into our own hands and decide only to buy sustainable clothing. At this point, we are changing a part of our lifestyle, which may result in changing more aspects of our identity the further we dive into sustainability. On the other hand, we may be aware of the negative consequences of labour exploitation and do nothing about it because we feel like it's unavoidable, creating apolitical apathy.

    Detraditionalisation

    Detradiationlisation is the result of not constructing ones self-identity based on tradition. Giddens argues that globalisation exposes us to information and experiences from different cultures and civilisations, giving us the ability to veer away from tradition that brings stability to our self-identity. Without these traditions, our self-identity is continuously changing to adapt to the constant information (thanks to globalisation and the age of information that we are receiving since there are no clear sets of norms or values firmly established. This, lack of a stable identity, according to Giddens, could lead to a rise in addiction and produce Fundamentalism.

    Fundamentalism refers to an unwavering commitment to a particular set of morals and values, usually religious, that only allows for a single interpretation and opposes any form of plurality.

    Giddens believes that to fight the negative aspects of globalisation, a whole new political approach needs to be taken; this is when his idea of the Third Way comes into play.

    Anthony Giddens Third Way

    Giddens developed a pragmatic political theory known as the Third Way.

    In the 1990s, Anthony Giddens developed a new pragmatic political theory called Third Way. This theory, centrist in nature, pulled ideas from centre-right economic policies and centre-left social policies, creating something between free-market capitalism and a socialist state. The goal is economic efficiency and social justice. Many consider this theory a form of communitarianism.

    Gidden's centrist theory proposes the privatisation of public services, welfare reform by creating educational opportunities for all and welfare-to-work policies, and having fair wages to reduce social exclusion, increase generative equality and fight poverty.

    Generative Equality: where everyone gets the same development opportunities, and it's up to oneself to take advantage of them.

    In order for this to occur Giddens suggests that there is a need for the government to become more ethical in its governance and form alliances to deal with international problems caused by globalisation. In his theory, the role of government is essential, because the issues that it needs to solve cannot be solved by the free market and social movements alone.

    This theory gained much traction from many political leaders worldwide, such as Bill Clinton, in the US, Gerhard Schroder in Germany, and Tony Blair, in the UK. However, Tony Blair was the most prominent leader to accept third-way politics.

    Figure 2. Anthony Giddens Tony Blair and Anthony Giddens Talking StudySmarterFigure 2. Anthony Giddens and Tony Blair. LSE, Wikimedia Commons

    New Labour

    Becoming the leader of the democratic socialist party, the Labour Party, in 1994, Tony Blair started to refer to the Labour party as the New Labour Party. This "new" party was built upon the framework and principles Giddens provided in his Third Way theory. By 1997 Blair was elected the prime minister of the United Kingdom under the New Labour Party and promoted policies that were in line with the Third Way theory. Some of the main policies shaped by Giddens ideology and introduced by Blair are:

    • Welfare to work - subsidies and training for welfare claimants that want to join the job market.
    • New Deal - Assisted singles mother and those with disabilities in getting a job.
    • Minimum Wage - raising pay rate higher than benefit amounts.

    Anthony Giddens - Key takeaways

    • Anthony Giddens is a prominent British sociologist who served as an advisor to Tony Blair.
    • Anthony Giddens' Structuration Theory focuses on the dual nature between structure and agency.
    • Anthony Giddens' developed the Third Way, a political theory that looked to combine the ethics of socialism with the economic success of capitalism.
    • Anthony Giddens helped form the New Labour Party in the United Kingdom.
    • Anthony Giddens has authored over 30 books and 200 articles.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Anthony Giddens

    who is anthony giddens 

    Anthony Giddens is a renowned, British sociologist best known for his Structuration Theory and Third Way political ideology. 

    how anthony giddens background impacted his work

    Anthony Giddens' background as a lower-middle-class provided him with a glimpse of what social democracy should look like.

    what are anthony giddens beliefs 

    Anthony Giddens' beliefs revolved around studying society from the lens of micro and macro systemic systems.

    What is Anthony Giddens Modernity? 

    Anthony Giddens Characterizes modernity as the progress of capitalism, industrialism, military power, and administrative power. 

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