Agency is another key concept in political analysis that, when looked from feminist perspectives, makes visible aspects of social and political reality that are commonly neglected in political analyses. It is defined as the capacity or ability of an actor to act (Hay 2002; Hinterberger 2013), and in this way ‘to have some kind of transforming effect or impact on the world’ (McNay 2016: 39). Agency is commonly associated with autonomy, free will and choice. As with all concepts in political analysis, it is a contested one. It is, moreover, related to other key concepts such as power and structure. It is related to power in the sense that individual and collective capacity to act is both constrained and enabled in different contextual circumstances. In this respect ‘agency can be seen as the ability of the subject to resist, negotiate and transform certain forms of power that work on the subject both internally and externally’ (Hinterberger 2013: 7). Concerning the relation of agency with structure, it is helpful ‘to explore both theoretically and empirically how people think and act within the social conditions in which they find themselves’ (Hinterberger 2013: 7). The agency–structure debate has long been present in sociology and political science in the search for explanations for social and political phenomena. Structure refers to contextual factors (e.g. social practices, political institutions) that show some regularity over time and escape the immediate control of actors.
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