Text, agency, and organization in the light of structuration theory

Robert D. McPhee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


This article argues for three linked conceptions. First is a conception of 'a text' as characterized by three features: a text is symbolic; it is inscribed as symbols on a relatively permanent, 'readable' medium such as paper or CD; and it has a coherent enough structure to be dealt with by interpretive processes or technologies such as financial processing. The second conception is that of an organization as a stable relational system grounded in the capacity to '"bracket space-time". . . via the reflexive monitoring of system reproduction and the articulation of discursive history' (Giddens, 1987b: 153). I argue that this capacity depends on the specific properties of 'a text' mentioned above. Third, 'agency' is conceptualized in line with Giddens' 'internalist' model of agentive powers, which are ones necessary to engage with a text as organization members do. The paper argues that other conceptions risk blinding us to the features and relationships shown to be crucial here.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-371
Number of pages17
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2004


  • Agency
  • Discourse
  • Institutional reflexivity
  • Organizational constitution
  • Structuration
  • Text

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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