Agency, Theory of

The theory of agency seeks to explain why and how service and control can succeed or fail in a wide variety of social settings. One actor, the agent, is modeled as acting for another, the principal. These actors face characteristic problems that can appear remarkably similar across social or organizational contexts. The agent’s problems focus on serving the principal (and, sometimes, on avoiding or manipulating such service). The principal’s problems generally entail dilemmas concerning how to ensure that the agent will do what the principal wants him or her to do (although the use of agents can also be a way to defer, shift, or avoid real action). Thus, the analysis of agency relationships features both an agent side and a principal side. Because human ...

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