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

  • Author / Creator
    Crosby, Wayne
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2013
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.