Migration in the New World Order: Structuration Theory and its contribution to Explanations of Migration

Migration in the New World Order: Structuration Theory and its contribution to Explanations of Migration Richard L. Wolfel Department of Geography Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Edwardsville,
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Migration in the New World Order: Structuration Theory and its contribution to Explanations of Migration Richard L. Wolfel Department of Geography Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Edwardsville, IL (618) Fax: (618) The reconstitution of economic, political and social factors is an important characteristic of the contemporary world. The changing structure of societies represents a dramatic change in the motives for migration. As a result of these major societal changes, the explanations of migration need evaluation in order to address the complex social, political and economic factors that have become important in this era. Not only does this transitional era require an examination of the methodological approaches to migration, but it also requires a rethinking of migration. A theory that can address both individual and societal factors is necessary to understand migration. The insights presented in this research are informed by the work of Anthony Giddens. In his theory of structuration, Giddens emphasizes that both individual and societal forces are influential on the constitution of society and incorporates this into one explanation. Some migration studies have utilized Giddens work in their projects, but none have focused on all of the elements of structuration theory. This study seeks to use Giddens theory of structuration as a method of bringing both macro and micro influences of migration into a more complete explanation of the migration decision making process. Structuration Theory and Migration Structuration theory is an approach to social theory concerned with the intersection between knowledgeable and capable social agents and the wider social systems and structures in which they are implicated (Gregory, 1994: 600). Several studies have emphasized the advantage of adopting a Giddensian approach to migration. Tammaru and Sjoberg (1999: 242) argue that migration studies should employ a structurationist approach. To that end, they suggest the use of qualitative approaches to 1 understand the motives that migrants can formulate discursively, while quantitative approaches can capture motives that are influenced by tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge refers to actions that migrants cannot explain, like irrational migration behavior. According to Tammaru and Sjoberg (1999), a multi-method approach to migration studies is appropriate to understanding the motives of migrants since it not only addresses the stated concerns of the migrants, but also looks at wider societal issues that influence migration in a tacit manner. Goss and Lindquist (1995) emphasize the institutionalization of networks in their study of migration in the Philippines. In their study, they conceptualize individual migrants as knowledgeable agents undertaking action within pre-established institutions with recognized rules. These networks provide a set of information that helps potential migrants decide if migration would improve their utility function, or perceived opportunities that would be associated with the move. Halfacree (1995) is a strong proponent of the use of structuration theory in studies of migration. In his study of household migration and the stucturation of patriarchy, he emphasizes the importance of the duality of structure in the migration decision making process. He emphasizes that migration is more than just a simple cost-benefit analysis, but is influenced by wider social issues. To this end, Halfacree (1995: 170) stresses the need for analysis of the institutional structures which sustain the apparent sex-role structure in a gender perspective on migration. It is important to view both the societal characteristics and the individual s responses to those characteristics in order to understand the processes behind migration fully. 2 Boyle et al. (1998: 80) continue to develop a Giddensian perspective on migration by emphasizing the importance of unintended consequences of an agents decision. By acquiescing to migration in which their place-utility is not improved, through a movement to improve the place utility of the male of the household, women are unintentionally perpetuating the institution of patriarchy in a society. Boyle (1998) and Halfacree s (1995) conceptualization of migration and the Duality of Structure is a great contribution to a Giddensian perspective on migration. While all of these studies promote one aspect of Giddens theory, none of them address all six of the elements of Structuration Theory (Agency, Structure, the Duality of Structure, Institutions, the Dialectic of Control, and Time/Space relations). Most importantly, none of these projects address the Dialectic of Control, one of the foundations of Structuration theory. As a study of place utility, migration is seen as a process of improving one s condition. This tends to be universal across theories of migration. Applying Giddens work on power will allow for a greater understanding of place utility through the identification of an individual s source of power to influence the structuration of society. Macro and Micro Level Influences on Migration Decisions This research addresses one of the key debates in migration studies over the past several decades. The importance of macro and micro level influences on migration have been debated in the migration literature. Gardner (1981) cites macro-level models as models which try to relate aggregate conditions to mobility rates (Gardner, 1981: 62). According to the human capital theory of migration (Sjaastad, 1962), people are likely to move to regions with many employment opportunities. In this theory, macro-level 3 influences guide migration decisions. In other words, the individual moves as a result of factors beyond the migrant s control. Macro-level decision making is also visible in other important works of migration. An important aspect of the life-cycle approach to migration is labor market competition. This concept is addressed by Plane and Rogerson (1991). They conclude that individuals in a large cohort will face stiffer competition for employment (Plane and Rogerson, 1991: 417). As a result, members of a large cohort, especially people born late in a cohort will be forced to migrate in an effort to find employment due to macro-level societal influences. One final example of macro-level migration modeling includes studies that emphasize aggregate regional conditions as important determinants of migration. In his review of migration theory, Shaw (1975) describes the Lowry model of migration. This model addresses the relationship between origin and destination factors, but it emphasizes the importance of employment opportunities at the place of destination (Shaw, 1975: 64). Studies of origin and destination factors of migration tend to study the characteristics of the society at the macro-level often at the expense of individual migration decision-maker. Macro-level theories of migration are challenged by researchers who emphasize the need for local-scale context in studies of migration. This focus on individual motives of migration is defined by Gardner (1981) as micro-scale migration theories. Halfacree and Boyle (1998: 71) identify this as the humanistic critique of determinism. These approaches focus on personal, or individual, characteristics of migrants rather than the aggregate societal conditions. These studies tend to utilize smaller level statistical 4 analyses or qualitative methods in an effort to demonstrate how individuals arrive at decisions to migrate, rather than focus on large scale, statistical models that aggregate factors for an entire society. One example of a micro-level approach to migration is Lawson s (1995) study of gender relations in the Ecuadorian garment industry. While she does link this study to macro-level process in Ecuador, including neo-libralism and austerity programs, the focus of her study is on the individual. Her methodology emphasizes this point through the use of in-depth interviews in an effort to gain insight into the individual motives that drove individual people to migrate. The emphasis on individual motives is a strong defining element of micro-level theories of migration. Lee (1969) addresses this lack of connection between micro and macro theories of migration in his revision of Ravenstein s (1885) Laws of Migration. In this study, Lee (1969: 285) identifies four major factors: origin factors, destination factors, intervening opportunities and personal factors. Lee sees the personal factors as exceptions to the migration rule. To that end, Lee (1969: 288) states, We must expect, therefore, to find many exceptions to our general rule since transient emotions, mental disorder and accidental occurrences account for a considerable proportion of the total migration. The issue with Lee s work is not his acknowledgement of the existence of personal factors, but his relative disregard of these issues. Micro-level migration decisions are more than just transient, accidental disorders that cause deviation from the generalizations. The role of micro-level factors is an integral part of the migration decision-making process. This study seeks to use Giddens theory of structuration as a method of bringing both macro and micro influences of migration into a more complete explanation of the 5 migration decision making process. Giddens conceptualization of societal change, especially his view of power, institutions and the duality of structure allow for the creation of an explanatory devise that will take into account both macro level influences on migration, while his discussion of agency allows for a thorough discussion of the micro level process that influence migration. In order to explain the methods used in explaining migration in a transitional society, it is necessary to review the work of Giddens and others who have written about structuration theory and then apply these insights into a theory of migration. Giddens' Theory of Structuration and Applications to Migration Social theories have been employed in the social sciences in an effort to explain the nature of the formation and organization of societies. Most of these theories can be classified into one of two theoretical camps. The first groups of voluntaristic theories emphasize the individual within a society as the primary influence on social change. This voluntaristic group of theories emphasizes individual actions as significant to the reconstitution of society. This group of theories can be contrasted with the structural theories. Structuralists emphasize the role of societal structures, for example capitalism, nationalism or masculinity, as the primary influences on the reconstitution, or redevelopment, of society. The voluntaristic theories tend to underestimate the influence of societal structures, while emphasizing the role of the individual in social change. Consequently, both of these theories provide reductionist or limited explanations of the entire nature of societal change. In reality, both the people and the structures of society are important influences in the reconstitution of society. Giddens attempts to correct this shortcoming in his theory of structuration. Structuration theory is an approach to social 6 theory concerned with the intersection between knowledgeable and capable social agents and the wider social systems and structures in which they are implicated (Gregory, 1994: 600). It is important to emphasize that this is not an attempt to marry structuralism and humanistic social theories, but an attempt to overcome their deficiencies through an understanding that both the agent and structure interact to bring about social change. What Giddens has proposed is not a compromise, but a whole new social theory. His theory attempts to place equal importance on both the societal structures and human agents. In order to understand a Giddensian theory of migration, six key concepts must be addressed and defined. Agency, Structure, the Duality of Structure, Institutions, the Dialectic of Control, and Time/Space relations are the important points on the nexus of structuration theory. In order to understand structuration theory, each of these six points must be defined and related to Giddens' theory. Once these points have been elaborated, they will provide the foundation for a Giddensian theory of migration. Agency In Giddens' structuration project, the individual plays an important role. In Giddensian thought, the agent is a knowledgeable and capable subject (Cloke, 1991: 97). In structuration theory, the agent knows what she is doing and why she is doing it. According to Giddens, all actions are intentional or purposeful (Giddens, 1979: 56). The emphasis that agents are knowledgeable and their actions are intentional is one of the cornerstones of Giddensian thought. As for the process of decision making, according to Giddens, [a]n actor may 'calculate the risks' involved in the enactment of a given form of social conduct, in 7 respect of the likelihood of the sanctions involved or actually applied, and may be prepared to submit to them as a price to be paid for achieving a particular end (Giddens, 1979: 87). In Giddensian theory, people use a cost-benefit analysis in order to make a decision. If the benefits for undertaking an action are greater than the costs, the action is undertaken. The costs also include the possibility of suffering negative sanctions. Therefore, the decision includes not only immediate costs of the actions, but also the negative consequences. If the benefits for an action outweigh both the costs and the sanctions of the action, it is undertaken. It is important to remember that a knowledgeable actor undertakes this cost-benefit analysis utilizing a host of criteria, not just economic concerns. Since no actor has perfect knowledge, it is necessary to define the limits of human knowlegeability. According to Giddens (1984), [t]he knowlegability of human actors is always bounded on the one hand by the unconscious and on the other by unacknowledged/unintended consequences of action (Giddens, 1984: 282). Unconscious actions may not appear to be rational, but they are governed by some unconscious behavior that a person cannot. According to Giddens, these actions are often ignored if they conform to society or if they are momentary slips in bodily management or slips of the tongue (Giddens, 1984: 6). The unintended consequences of action are more significant to Giddensian theory. These consequences are the result of activities that produce an outcome that is different from the expected (Giddens, 1984: 10). In order to understand unintended consequences, it is necessary to view the results of the actions rather than the motives for the actions (Giddens, 1984: 11). Giddens utilizes the example of an actor turning on a light in a room 8 (See Giddens, 1984: 10) The motive behind turning on the lamp is to illuminate the room. Yet, another consequence of the action is chasing a prowler away. The chasing of the prowler is an unintended consequence. Since the actor knew nothing of the prowler, it seems senseless to study the action in terms of the actor s motives if one is interested in understanding why the prowler ran away. In this example the conclusion that the actor s action is irrelevant is valid. However, in more complex situations, unintended consequences can be quite influential. For example, if a person migrates in an effort to unite with family, but in the process discovers an improvement in employment, the reason for the move is not to find better employment, this would be the unintended consequence of the migration. Such an action might trigger more migration as people migrate to find better employment. Since the action is the result of the individual it is an important component of an individual's influence on society. In order to understand reactions to this process, Giddens uses the duality of structure, which will be discussed later in this paper. Although Giddens stresses the individual as a human agent, he places the individual as part of the process of making history, rather than the maker of history (Cohen, 1989: 47). This is what separates Giddens theory from humanistic social theories, like humanism or postmodernism. The humanistic theories would see actors as the makers of history. Giddens sees them as part of a process of historical change. As a result, in order to understand Giddensian theory, it is essential to understand the relationship between the society and the individual. Giddens calls this relationship the duality of structure. Before this relationship can be fleshed out, however, it is necessary to understand Giddens' definition of structure. 9 Giddens discussion of the agent provides important insights into the individual migrant. The agent in Giddens theory performs both intentional and unintentional actions. The intentional actions could classified as proximate determinants of migration following the work of Thapa and Conway (1983). Thapa and Conway (1983) and Todaro (1976) have defined proximate determinants as factors that have been identified in previous migration research as important explanatory factors of internal migration. Examples of proximate determinants of migration include: the life-cycle theory of migration (Rogers, 1978; Plane, 1984), economic opportunities (Sjaastad, 1962; Vanderkamp, 1977), and previous migration history (Rogerson, 1984). The unintended consequences of actions are also important in explaining migration during transitional eras. This is emphasized by Boyle, et al. (1998). They conclude that women do not intentionally perpetuate the institution of patriarchy, but by migrating based on the needs of their husbands, they are unintentionally promoting it. Also, based on humanistic theories of migration, especially Wolpert (1966), people often make hurried, or irrational, decisions during times of stress and strain. According to Wolpert (1966: 95) [s]train may induce additional bias into the migration decision by (perhaps) triggering off a hasty decision to move, encouraging a disorganized search for other places to go, or fixation on a single destination place when closer examination of several alternatives is more beneficial. Often, these decisions are undertaken using incomplete or outdated information and result in unintended consequences, especially when such decisions are studied using traditional, human capital theories of migration. Structure 10 The second element, after agency, in Giddens' structuration theory is the role of structure in social change. Giddens defines structure as, [r]ules and resources, recursively implicated in the reproduction of social systems. Structure only exists in memory traces, the organic basis of human knowledgeability, and as instantiated in action (Giddens, 1984: 377). In other words, structure includes the rules that govern society. The use of the term recursive is important to understanding the role of structure in Giddensian thought. Gregory refers to recursiveness as the theory that structure is both the medium and the outcome of the social practices constituting social systems (Gregory, 1994: 112). This is echoed by Giddens who notes that, [s]tructure thus is not to be conceptualised as a barrier to action, but as essentially involved in its production (Giddens, 1979: 70). In a Giddensian framework, this implies that structure is both influenced by and influences social change, in other words, it is recursive. Societies have certain laws and resources that influence social change. Also, these rules and resources can be modified through the process of restructuring society. This is the basis for the duality of structure that will be discussed later. The second half of Giddens' definition of structure views the structure of society as an intangible feature (Structure only exists in memory traces, the organic basis of human knowledgea
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