Agency, Structure and One Asunder

Professor: Align Left                Student: Align Center                Gadfly: Align Right

  1. A graduate student gently raps,
  2. On the professor’s ajar door.
  3. She peeks inside and smiles wide,
  4. Anticipating his next snore.
  5. Come in. Come in [clears throat].
  6. Good afternoon, Professor.
  7. I need some assistance.
  8. Caveat emptor,
  9.      ‘Tis nuanced business.
  10.             And your research focus; I recall,
  11.                     Is relevant to cleavage and political behavior?
  12.                           This might take many meetings to be solved!
  13. I studied cleavage like a nerd,
  14. These past few weeks.
  15. But I can’t seem to link,
  16. According to comparative politics,
  17. The structure of parties.
  18. The student attempts sincere respect:
  19. I really don’t know how any of this,
  20. Will honestly fit,
  21. With my future research,
  22. I confess.
  23. The professor’s face became strait.
  24. “The Structure of Structure”[1]
  25. It’s a metaphor?
  26. Yes. Rooted in Latin from ‘habitation’ and ‘building,’
  27. It has become a metaphor we’ve developed, depicting,
  28.       Two different aspects for describing,
  29.             All sorts of things.
  30. There’s (1) a temporal structure involving endurance,
  31.       Upcoming literature may call it ‘stability,’
  32.             It happens when you are observing,
  33.      Continuity through time; for instance,
  34.             Analyzing political behavior trends persistent in,
  35.                     The past to the present.
  36. The student interjects:
  37. I like voting behavior.
  38. The professor’s face remains strait:
  39. There’s (2) a spatial structure,
  40.      Which accounts for the fixed arrangements,
  41.             Spatially denoting the place of the parts,
  42.       Upcoming literature may call it ‘alignment’
  43.                         Position in space, perhaps on a few axis; for instance,
  44.                               Analyzing the political behavior relationship,
  45.                                     To particular social characteristics.
  46. She can’t help herself from asking:
  47. Sounds like articulating the ‘frozenness’
  48. Of a cleavage?
  49. This alignment, stability and temporal witness.
  50. That is very thoughtful of you [a smile from the professor].
  51.       For imagine that the research of political behavior,
  52.             Affirms stability in its temporal structure; and,
  53.             Affirms alignment in the positional structure; hence,
  54.                     Cleavage is officially observed!
  55. And when only temporal structure is high?
  56. I call that ‘inertia.’
  57. And when only positional structure is high?
  58. I call that ‘re-alignment.’
  59. And when neither structure is high?
  60. I call that ‘de-alignment.’
  61. Nuanced is right!
  62. They laugh in earnest,
  63. And take a moment,
  64. To determine if more details,
  65. Are necessary for discernment.
  66. So to find cleavage there is a temporal and positional YES,
  67.      In political choice, attitudes, and demographic aspects.
  68. And the structure of parties?
  69. To determine the structural relationships as pertinent to political choice,
  70.      Research values, socio-demographics, and group consciousness,
  71.          Assuring positional and temporal structural alliances,
  72.               In the midst of stability and alignment; then,
  73.                   The party core and party bloc should be obvious.
  74. She laughs.
  75. Professor, would you please provide,
  76. How elites play into this design?
  77. Please do opine!
  78. Much ado about agency, I say:
  79.       Studying significant elite actions by way,
  80.       Of actors making decisions as choices array,
  81.       Maneuvers to constrain others or oneself in a game,
  82.       Whereby constraints come by institutions, see mores,
  83.             And sociological characteristics of political conflicts that penetrate,
  84.             And the social structure just discussed does infiltrate; all this I rave,
  85.                     Is agency by name!
  86. How is this research specifically engaged?
  87. Today, a common study involves:
  88.      The exertion of independent political elites,
  89.           Upon the structure of competition.
  90.      It’s monitoring the elite’s intra-party strategy,
  91.           And intra-party organization.
  92.      It’s evidence of the line of attack within coalition choice,
  93.            The active shaping of voters and voters’ groups; the elite’s voice,
  94.                   Framing the socio-demographic and ideological noise.
  95. Go on!
  96. Political scientists shall research agency abundantly when:
  97.             Leaders foment crisis to undercut structures; big dents,
  98.                   To win through political battle a much better position.
  99.             Leaders alter the value and interest structure in society; elite vents,
  100.                   Using the ‘bully pulpit’ or new public policy,
  101.                         To create an identity or composition of superior approbation.
  102.             Leaders make people believe it is right to ignore or to not defend,
  103.                   The opponent’s salient social characteristics; hang ‘em on the fence,
  104.                         And attract new supporters to witness the withering opposition.
  105.             Leaders manipulate the institutional rules; to vitally amend,
  106.                   The shape of the field of political competition,
  107.                         To deny and/or to open selective options.
  108. Is agency really a study of power?
  109. The use and abuse of power?
  110. Agency is a study of agency.
  111. And structure of structure…
  112. The professor innocently sighs.
  113. For he realizes,
  114. That Banter Clock,
  115. Just expired of time.
  116. Young erudite, in this new and free millennium,
  117.      We are developing the political vocabulary,
  118.             In order to build up and apply new research tools.
  119.      We welcome contestation; in use,
  120.             And we nobly harangue contriving fools.
  121. Run from the researcher who reads between the lines,
  122.       For in this scientific age it is a sign,
  123.             Of a confused or immature mind.
  124. Today, the discipline of political science; do hear,
  125.       Is a constant ground-breaking and developing field,
  126.             And scholars readily admit that in their papers—we’re sincere!
  127. The professor scratches his beard.
  128. These concepts of agency and structure;
  129.       That we just discussed, which I personally savored very much,
  130.             ‘Twas carefully articulated by two giants just the other year!
  131. Smiles exchanged as hope was in order,
  132. For she was this very day completing her coursework.
  133. Years of study and a pithy prospectus complete,
  134. In another area of study, unrelated to this Professor’s learned glee.
  135. And then,
  136. The student looked down at her digital recorder,
  137. And noticed it was never recording.
  138. “It’s all lost!” she gasped beneath her breath.
  139. Her teeth, now clench, and begin to grind,
  140. Her hands moisten, clam, and rub against her thighs.
  141. As she prepares for a hot flash,
  142. She tries to cover her face,
  143. Trying to cover horrified fright.
  144. Trying to cover her forgetfulness,
  145. Now aware of incoming stress!
  146. Stress, pitted in her stomach, urging on an ulcer.
  147. “I can’t remember!”
  148. She slowly places the blank recorder,
  149. Into the side pocket of her oversized purse.
  150. A quick hand-flash and whisper “Good-bye.”
  151. Alongside her weary and water filled eyes,
  152. She, at last, closing the cold steel door,
  153. Feeling she’d lost his knowledge and their rapport,
  154. Looking awry and feverish now,
  155. Fearing the minor comprehensive exam tomorrow,
  156. Curses her spirit asunder.

[1]This begins an analysis of Deegan-Krause and Enyedi. 2010. Agency and the Structure of Party Competition: Alignment, Stability and the Role of Political Elites. West European Politics, V. 33, N. 3, 686-710.

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  1. Pingback: Poli-Sci “Parties” Poetry Book « Political Pipeline

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