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Concepts of bounded agency in education, work, and the personal lives of young adults

By Karen Evans


This paper traces the development of a series of Anglo-German studies on how young adults experience control and exercise personal agency as they pass through periods of transition in education and training, work, unemployment and in their personal lives. The overarching aim has been to develop an extended dialogue between ideas and evidence to explore the beliefs and actions associated with life-chances under differing structural and cultural conditions. What kinds of beliefs and perspectives do people have on their future possibilities? How far do they feel in control of their lives? How does what people believe is possible for them (their personal horizons developed within cultural and structural influences) determine their behaviours and what they perceive to be 'choices'? This research contributes to the re-conceptualisation of agency as a process in which past habits and routines are contextualised and future possibilities envisaged with in the contingencies of the present moment. The paper concludes by explaining the concept of ;bounded agency' as an alternative to 'structured individualisation' as a way of understanding the experiences of people in changing social landscapes

Year: 2007
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