Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Agency is an important concept for political studies because it denotes the property or capacity of actors to make things happen. Political activities are carried out by agents, whose agency inheres in their power to produce effects. In politics, agency is generally reserved for human actors, and more controversially, it is sometimes attributed only to particular categories of person. Although they are often treated as synonymous, human agency and political agency are not necessarily identical: Niccolò Machiavelli and Max Weber, for example, contend that rulers require special political capacities in the art of statecraft. Although the term agency is mainly used in quite a straightforward way, its presuppositions are widely contested. Who counts as an agent; what kinds of ability are deemed necessary for agency (are these, for example, biased in terms of gender or ethnicity?), and how effective agents are in determining political outcomes, all remain sources of The ...