What’s the Point of Social Ontology?
PhD Workshop at the University of Warwick
18th June 2014, 10am – 5:30pm
Ontology can often prove a contested and confusing issue within social research. Everyone has an ontology, explicit or otherwise, but the process of drawing this out and thinking through its implications for research can often be a confusing part of the PhD process. This participatory workshop explores the practical significance of ontological questions for social research, inviting participants to reflect on their own research projects in a collaborative and supportive context. It aims to help participants negotiate the sometimes abstruse matter of social ontology, linking theory to practice in the context of their own research projects. The main focus throughout the day will be on how ontological questions are encountered in social research, the questions posed by such encounters and how engaging explicitly with social ontology can often help resolve such issues.
All participants will offer a brief (5 minute) presentation of their research project and the ontological questions which have been or are expected to be encountered within it. Those still early in the PhD process are welcome to substitute this for a discussion of their research interests and potential project. We’d like to ask all participants to reflect in advance on their own social ontology and how it pertains to their project. Uncertainty here is not a problem, in fact it will be a useful contribution to discussions on the day!
We also invite two more substantial presentations (10 mins) for the first afternoon session, reflecting on your engagement with ontological questions in your own project in order to help begin a practical engagement which encompasses the entire group. If you would be interested in leading the discussion in this way then please make this known when registering.
To register please contact email@example.com with a brief description of your research and your interest in social ontology (500 words or less) by May 15th. The event is free but places are limited. Travel bursaries are available, please ask for more details.
From Modernity to Morphogenesis was the CSO’s first annual invited workshop. The workshop was headed by Margaret Archer and the papers were published as Social Morphogenesis.
The workshop attendees were (in order of presentations):
Network Dynamics and the regulatory process: a neo-structural approach to morphogenesis
Regularity and Emergence: two frontiers in the morphogenetic approach
Relations of Authority, obligations and roles
The Morphogenesis of Social Networks: relational steering beyond positive and negative feedbacks
Self-organizing as the mechanism of development and evolution in social systems
Emergence: relating emergents and morphogenesis
Emergence, Downward Causation and Causal Reduction
Social Change as Morphogenesis
Morphogenesis, Continuity and Change in the International Political System
This book, the last volume in the Social Morphogenesis series, examines whether or not a Morphogenic society can foster new modes of human relations that could exercise a form of ‘relational steering’, protecting and promoting a nuanced version of the good life for all. It analyses the way in which the intensification of morphogenesis and the diminishing of morphostasis impact upon human flourishing. The book links intensified morphogenesis to promoting human flourishing based on the assumption that new opportunities open up novel experiences, skills, and modes of communication that appeal to talents previously lacking any outlet or recognition. It proposes that equality of opportunity would increase as ascribed characteristics diminished in importance, and it could be maintained as the notion of achievement continued to diversify. Digitalization has opened the cultural ‘archive’ for more to explore and, as it expands exponentially, so do new complementary compatibilities whose development foster yet further opportunities. If more people can do more of what they do best, these represent stepping stones towards the ‘good life’ for more of them.
Table of contents
Introduction: Has a Morphogenic Society Arrived? – Margaret Archer
Human Flourishing and Human Morphogenesis: A Critical Realist Interpretation and Critique – Philip S. Gorski
Some Reservations About Flourishing – Douglas Porpora
Reflexivity in a Just Morphogenic Society: A Sociological Contribution to Political Philosophy – Ismael Al-Amoudi
The Morphogenic Society as Source and Challenge for Human Fulfillment
Does Intensive Morphogenesis Foster Human Capacities or Liabilities? – Margaret Archer
What Does a ‘Good Life’ Mean in a Morphogenic Society? The Viewpoint of Relational Sociology
Flourishing or Fragmenting Amidst Variety: And the Digitalization of the Archive – Mark Carrigan
Corporations, Taxation and Responsibility: Practical and Onto-Analytical Issues for Morphogensis and Eudaimonia – A posse ad esse? – Jamie Morgan and William Sun
Networks and Commons: Bureaucracy, Collegiality and Organizational Morphogenesis in the Struggles to Shape Collective Responsibility in New Sharing Institutions – Emmanuel Lazega
Eudaimonic Bubbles, Social Change and the NHS – Tony Lawson
The Will to Be: Human Flourishing and the Good International Society – Colin Wight
Creating Common Good: The Global Sustainable Information Society as the Good Society – Wolfgang Hofkirchner
All are welcome to this special celebration of Critical Realism (CR) and the works of its originator, Professor Roy Bhaskar. The event will see the launch of new books on the subject and an introduction to a new member of the UCL community. Chairing the proceedings will be Hilary Wainwright, the sociologist, political activist and socialist feminist, best known for being editor of Red Pepper magazine.
The afternoon will begin with a welcome to Professor Margaret Archer, who is joining UCL, by Professor David Voas, Head of the Department of Social Science, UCL Institute of Education and Professor Priscilla Alderson, UCL Institute of Education.
Registration and more details: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/celebration-of-critical-realism-at-ucl-tickets-31540549633
The sixth annual Centre for Social Ontology workshop took place from the 3rd to 6th January 2017 in central London. The papers will be published as the first in a new volume of books, with full details to be confirmed soon.
Maggie Archer: Bodies, Persons and Transhumans: Why do these Distinctions Matter?
Doug Porpora: Vulcans, Klingdoms, and Humans: What does Humanism Encompass?
Phil Gorski: The Meta-ethics of Transhumanism. Does the ethics of human flourishing provide sufficient leverage to critique radical Transhumanism?
John Latsis: Needs, Wants and the ethics of human enhancement
Pierpaolo Donati: Transcending the Human: Why, Where and How?
Emmanuel Lazega: Transhumanist Interventions: A formula for a divided social order?
Mark Carrigan: The Evisceration of the Human in the Digital Social Sciences
Colin Wight: Death, Dreams and Destruction: the illusions of Posthumanist Warfare.
Jamie Morgan: A.I. and the failure adequately to define the Human
Ismael Al-Amoudi: Dehumanisation and organisation studies
Wolfgang Hofkirchner: Imagined Futures gone astray; An ontological analysis
Professor Margaret Archer is a leading critical realist and major contemporary social theorist. This edited collection seeks to celebrate the scope and accomplishments of her work, distilling her theoretical and empirical contributions into four sections which capture the essence and trajectory of her research over almost four decades. Long fascinated with the problem of structure and agency, Archer’s work has constituted a decade-long engagement with this perennial issue of social thought. However, in spite of the deep interconnections that unify her body of work, it is rarely treated as a coherent whole. This is doubtless in part due to the unforgiving rigour of her arguments and prose, but also a byproduct of sociology’s ongoing compartmentalisation.
This edited collection seeks to address this relative neglect by collating a selection of papers, spanning Archer’s career, which collectively elucidate both the development of her thought and the value that can be found in it as a systematic whole. This book illustrates the empirical origins of her social ontology in her early work on the sociology of education, as well as foregrounding the diverse range of influences that have conditioned her intellectual trajectory: the systems theory of Walter Buckley, the neo-Weberian analysis of Lockwood, the critical realist philosophy of Roy Bhaskar and, more recently, her engagement with American pragmatism and the Italian school of relational sociology. What emerges is a series of important contributions to our understanding of the relationship between structure, culture and agency. Acting to introduce and guide readers through these contributions, this book carries the potential to inform exciting and innovative sociological research.
Find out more on the publisher’s website: https://www.routledge.com/Structure-Culture-and-Agency-Selected-Papers-of-Margaret-Archer/Brock-Carrigan-Scambler/p/book/9781138932944
With the grateful thanks from all contributors to our Book Series on ‘Social Morphogenesis’ for the funding and support that we have received from the ISRF over six years.
Without this help we could not have met in different European cities for the first week in January every year, enjoyed our exchanges immensely and managed to produce a book a year:-
- Archer, Margaret S. (Ed.), 2013, Vol 1, Social Morphogenesis, Dordrecht, Springer.
- Archer, Margaret S. (Ed.), 2014, Vol 2, Late Modernity: Trajectories towards Morphogenic Society, Dordrecht, Springer.
- Archer, Margaret S., (Ed), 2015, Vol 3, Generative Mechanisms Transforming the Social Order, Dordrecht, Springer.
- Archer, Margaret S., (Ed.), 2016, Vol. 4, Morphogenesis and the Crisis of Normativity, Dordrecht, Springer.
- Archer, Margaret S., (Ed.), 2017, Vol. 5, Morphogenesis and the Good Society, Dordrecht, Springer.
Thank you from us all for supporting our independent research and the foundation of the Centre for Social Ontology.
Our collaborator Wolfgang Hofkirchner recently gave a paper at the ISA in Vienna (available online here) in which he discussed philosophical, that is, praxiological, ontological and epistemological foundations of a theory of social systems. In particular, he addressed the confluence of critical thinking and systems thinking – of Critical Theory and Systems Philosophy – in the context of social theory. Critical Theory has its origins in the Frankfurt School going back to Marx and has developed since into a variety of different approaches. Systems Philosophy is considered as having its origins in Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s General System Theory. It has been developing in the discourse about Evolutionary Systems and Complexity Thinking.
A special focus was given to the post-Luhmannian attempts to reframe the social (Poe Yu-Ze Wan 2011: Reframing the social: Emergentist Systemism and Social Theory). They show a striking affinity of two strands: Critical Realism, on the one hand, that is grounded on some Marxian assumptions and dialectical logic – in particular, the approach of Social Ontology as represented by Margaret S. Archer (with whom the Bertalanffy Center has been co-operating since 2012) – and Emergentist Systemism, on the other, a well-cast term for the gist of Systems Philosophy so far, going back to Mario Bunge (whom the BCSSS awarded the Ludwig von Bertalanffy Award in Complexity Thinking in 2014).
In contradistinction to suggestions such as to even de-ontologise Luhmann’s theory of social systems that gave already rise to rather constructivist views, Hofkirchner would promote to revisit some Luhmannian topoi and interpret those in the light of the mentioned convergences so as to fit a more coherent social theory.
We’re pleased to share Critical Realism and Humanity in the Social Sciences, edited by Klaudia Śledzińska and Krzysztof Wielicki, the first volume in the new Archerian Studies series.
The book is available in two formats: mobi and epub.
We’re pleased to learn that Pierpaolo Donati and Margaret Archer are joint winners of the Cheryl Frank Memorial Prize for The Relational Subject, along with CSO Advisory Committee member Douglas Porpora for Reconstructing Sociology.