autonomous man and plastic man
autonomous man and plastic mana distinction made by Hollis (1977,1987) between the choosing, rational, self-determining SOCIAL ACTOR, capable of fulfilling goals and expressing his own interests, i.e. autonomous man, and plastic man, who is determined by social structures and biology Hollis's aim in drawing the distinction is to argue that a model which includes elements of both is required for a satisfactory sociological explanation. As such, his is a more poetic rendering of a widespread modern emphasis in sociology on STRUCTURE AND AGENCY. According to Hollis, while acknowledging that some social outcomes are the direct result of the intended actions of individual actors, an adequate model must also take account of social outcomes that ‘go on behind our backs’, including ‘unintended consequences’. For Hollis, homo sociologicus should be framed as a role player, guided by norms and influenced by structures, but capable of genuine choice and of trust and morality. See also FREE WILL, RULES AND RULE-FOLLOWING, RATIONAL CHOICE THEORY.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000