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Moving through uncertain times: A morphogenetic approach to understanding people's response to crisis in two forest community contexts in rural British Columbia Open Access


Other title
Rural development
Rural communities
Morphogenetic approach
British Columbia forestry
Social structure
Collective action
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Crosby, Wayne
Supervisor and department
Parkins, John (Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology)
Caine, Ken (Sociology)
Davidson, Debra (Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Tindall, David (Sociology, University of British Columbia)
Spence, John (Renewable Resources)
Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology
Rural Sociology
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The degree to which individuals have agency to respond during crisis, and the degree to which social structure and culture influence their course of action, present compelling questions for understanding social change. The tradition of examining the interplay between agency and social structure, and to a lesser extent, culture, is central to sociology and forms the basis for social theory. I employ Margaret Archer’s morphogenetic approach because it offers the analytical means to examine the interplay between agency, structure, and culture over time and space whereby no single component is conflated into the other two components. Analytical attention is given to the conditional and generative mechanisms operating between agency, culture, and structure. The interplay is examined through a mediatory process of reflexivity whereby people interact with social structure and culture and negotiate constraining/enabling factors as they choose their course of action. Data was gathered through 49 semi-structured interviews conducted during fieldwork between July – December 2010 in two forest-dependent community settings of Mackenzie and McBride, British Columbia, Canada. Research participants faced a number of nationally and internationally sourced political and economic forces that manifest as immediate and direct socio-economic impacts related to mill closures, job loss, and the threat of community decline. I explore whether people have the capacity to move forward despite the threat of decline/collapse of their community and the factors that constrained/enabled their chosen courses of action. Particular attention is given to the expectation that people would engage in collective action as a means for moving through the crisis. I argue that people appear to have the capacity to sustain their own well-being and that of other community members through crisis, but appear limited in their capacity to pursue political and/or economic outcomes. Examination of the process of reflexivity reveals that the majority of research participants appear to employ a communicative mode, which suggests that the prevailing social system limits collective action. Findings reveal that morphostasis of structural and cultural conditions is reproduced to enable the well-being of the community members, and that there is a reproduction of factors constraining political and/or economic outcomes.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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