`Franco Crespi's timely study aims at the very heart of contemporary sociological discourse. He provides a superb chart of a crucial and vast area of controversy.' Zygmunt Bauman. The relationship between agency and structure, individual and society, is at the heart of modern sociology, and has a history almost as long as social science itself. Franco Crespi here writes a part of that history, tracing the social action debate from its origins, through the work of such theorists as Parsons, Luhmann, Boudon, Bourdieu, Giddens, Habermas and Alexander. While providing an outstanding survey of theories of social action (and a 'career report' on this central debate) Crespi also takes the field a step further, developing a third road between the positivist and humanist approaches he so clearly outlines. Blending the problematics of social action with analysis of the ambivalent relation between action and the symbolic order, Crespi then redefines power as the ability of individuals and groups to cope with seemingly irreconcilable contradictions. Power thus becomes the intersecting point between agency and structure. Selected for special mention by the international jury of the European Amalfi Prize for Sociology and Social Sciences in 1990, Social Action and Power will be welcomed by students and scholars in sociology, political science and philosophy.