Practice Theory highlights the relationship between social structure and human agency within society. The basis is that a person may influence or be influenced by their social structure and their decision to be a part of society depends on how well they have been socialized. Removing agency from social order results in a circular relationship between the two, in which individuals and their level of socialization constantly struggle for power and individuals must practice to improve themselves. Since debuting in the twentieth century, sociologists continue to apply this theory as a sociological lens in which to view people and society (O'Reilly 2012). Edit

Notable sociologists who have utilized this theory are Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens. Bourdieu describes relationships as a biological mechanism in which social order is internalized in oneself and the power struggle between humans and society results from the basic need to practice (Postill, 2010). In contrast, Giddens argues that all humans have the agency to make choices that lead to social change (Tan: 2015). He believes that “structuration” of society forms a frame of reference for social order and relationships, and that this order can survive outside of the content of the original relationships (Postill, 2010). Edit

Practice Theory can be helpful in explaining the question of nature versus nurture, which is constantly reevaluated depending on whose school of thought is under consideration. From either viewpoint, this theory can vary on both macro and micro levels: micro symbolizes individual agency while macro symbolizes social structures and organizations (O'Reilly: 2012). Sociologists utilize Practice Theory to account for the actions of individuals amid the greater frame of structured society. This theory has gained popularity in the field of anthropology in recent years as well. The concept that individuals must practice at their socialization reverberates strongly with sociologists and anthropologists when studying the interactions between individuals and society as a whole. Edit



Pierre Bourdieu (1 August 1930 - 23 January 2002) Edit

Anthony Giddens (8 January 1938 - present) Edit


Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Giddens, Anthony. 1979. Central Problems in Social Theory: Action, Structure, and Contradiction in Social Analysis. California: University of California Press.

Giddens, Anthony. 1986. The Constitution of Society: Outline of a Theory of Structuration. California: University of California Press.


Tan, Sherman. 2015. Understanding the "Structure" and the "Agency" Debate in the Social Sciences. Connecticut: Yale Habitus.

O'Reilly, Karen. 2012. Structuration, Practice Theory, Ethnography and Migration. United Kingdom: Oxford International Migration Institute.

Postill, J. 2010. Introduction: Theorizing Media and Practice. Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books.