Both agency and structure play a major role in the economy. Agency referring to the aspects of life that an individual has direct control over, and structure referring to the degree of which an individual’s autonomy is limited by the social structure around them. I would like to open this post by make the argument that these two things have an impact on one another. But while I understand Structure and the social institutions had to be created by the agency of individuals. I would argue that structure has a much greater impact on agency, I mean even the decisions that one makes can drastically be impacted by who a society dictates they are. I know I have made plenty of decisions purely based on what someone in my situation is supposed to do, even if it didn’t feel right. I understand that situations like this would still fall under agency but I don’t think the impact structure has on one’s agency can be overstated.
Personally I view the climate crisis as primarily being a structural issue rather than an agency issue. I mean the average American’s carbon footprint is around 20 metric tons, and Im sorry it would be impossible for an individual to produce that much carbon by themselves. These levels of carbon emissions are only made possible by the institutions installed in American culture. I mean a major majority of our citizens don’t have a realistic opportunity to farm their own food, forcing them to fall in their place in our capitalist society, which lets not beat around the bush here, is one of the major contributing factors to our climate crisis. I mean the U.S. government spends somewhere around 38 Billion dollars a year in subsidies for the meat and dairy industry. I realize this is a different discussion but i think there is a connection to be made here. I mean just being a U.S. citizen a huge portion of tax payer’s money is going towards funding the agriculture industry which has horrific impact on the climate crisis.
The fact that the climate crisis is a structural issue makes me angry, because it means that the leaders of our society who claimed this was for the best lead us right in to this mess. I think I would be a little more okay with the issue if a bunch of individuals that didn’t know any better accidentally ended up here. But the fact that it is a structural issue also gives me more hope that we can fix it, because while it will be challenging to change the culture in our society, I see it as a lot more realistic feat than changing 325 million individuals.