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Javnost - The Public, Vol. 19 - 2012, No. 4

Discursive Structures in the Network Society: A Theoretical Case Study on the Role of Immaterial Structures in Media Organisations

, pages: 25-40

The article takes the debates on structure and agency as a starting point to emphasise the importance of finding a balanced approach towards the discursive and the material in these debates. Through a critical reading of Giddens’ structuration theory and Castells’ network society theory, the tendencies in sociological (and communication and media studies) theory to render agency too present, to privilege the material over the discursive, and to fixate and permanently sediment all four concepts, is highlighted. The article then reverts to the notion of “discursive structure” as elaborated in Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory to further unravel the complexities of the relationships between these four categories, while at the same time guaranteeing that the cultural-discursive dimensions of structure gain more visibility. The workings of this more fluid and immaterial model of discursive structures is illustrated by focussing on the media organisation, as one of the points where the discursive and the material, and structure and agency meet. Through the lens of the media organisation we can see how agency and structure are both located at the level of the material and the discursive, and how the material and the discursive both have structure and agency.

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