Category Archives: Publications

Morphogenesis and Human Flourishing

contentThis 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

Selected Papers of Margaret Archer

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:

Morphogenesis and the Crisis of Normativity

morphogenesisWe’re pleased to announce that the next volume of our book series has been released: Morphogenesis and the Crisis of Normativity.

Introduction: Does Social Morphogenesis Threaten the Rule of Law? – Margaret Archer

The Great Normative Changes of the Twentieth Century – Douglas Porpora

Reflexive Secularity: Thoughts on the Reflexive Imperative in a Secular Age – Philip S. Gorski

Emergence, Development and Death: Norms in International Society – Colin Wight

The Normative Texture of Morphogenic Society: Tensions, Challenges, and Strategies – Andrea M. Maccarini

In Letter and in Spirit: Social Morphogenesis and the Interpretation of Codified Social Rules – Ismael Al-Amoudi

Anormative Social Regulation: The Attempt to Cope with Social Morphogenesis – Margaret S. Archer

Joint ‘Anormative’ Regulation from Status Inconsistency: A Multilevel Spinning Top Model of Specialized Institutionalization – Emmanuel Lazega

The Fragile Movements of Late Modernity – Mark Carrigan

The Relational Understanding of the Origin and Morphogenetic Change of Social Morality – Pierpaolo Donati

Collective Practices and Norms – Tony Lawson

Ethics from Systems: Origin, Development and Current State of Normativity – Wolfgang Hofkirchner

Corporate Social Entrepreneurship

A new book from CSO associate Christine Hemingway. See here for more details:

Neo-liberal capitalism has failed spectacularly and old-style socialism is not an alternative. I applied morphogenetic theory to the tentative, ethnographically-derived findings from my exploratory research into social responsibility as a subjective state, amongst corporate employees. Chapter 12 of my book theorises how corporate social responsibility (CSR) has shifted from the old Friedmanite perspective of subversive doctrine and can move beyond current instrumental CSR, espoused by the majority of ‘Conformist’ employees. Corporate social entrepreneurs, in the minority, operate regardless of the organisational climate. If they are given political legitimacy in the workplace, we might expect the growth of a much better form of capitalism than we have at the present time.

Generative Mechanisms Transforming the Social Order

The latest volume in the Social Morphogenesis series examines how generative mechanisms emerge in the social order and their consequences. It does so in the light of finding answers to the general question posed in this book series: Will Late Modernity be replaced by a social formation that could be called Morphogenic Society?

This volume clarifies what a ‘generative mechanism’ is, to achieve a better understanding of their social origins, and to delineate in what way such mechanisms exert effects within a current social formation, either stabilizing it or leading to changes potentially replacing it . The book explores questions about conjuncture, convergence and countervailing effects of morphogenetic mechanisms in order to assess their impact. Simultaneously, it looks at how products of positive feedback intertwine with the results of (morphostatic) negative feedback. This process also requires clarification, especially about the conditions under which morphostasis prevails over morphogenesis and vice versa. It raises the issue as to whether their co-existence can be other than short-lived.

The volume addresses whether or not there also is a process of ‘morpho-necrosis’, i.e. the ultimate demise of certain morphostatic mechanisms, such that they cannot ‘recover’. The book concludes that not only are generative mechanisms required to explain associations between variables involved in the replacement of Late Modernity by Morphogenic Society, but they are also robust enough to account for cases and times when such variables show no significant correlations.

See here to order a copy or review a table of contents.

Reconstructing Sociology by Douglas V. Porpora

Critical realism is a philosophy of science that positions itself against the major alternative philosophies underlying contemporary sociology. This book offers a general critique of sociology, particularly sociology in the United States, from a critical realist perspective. It also acts as an introduction to critical realism for students and scholars of sociology.

Written in a lively, accessible style, Douglas V. Porpora argues that sociology currently operates with deficient accounts of truth, culture, structure, agency, and causality that are all better served by a critical realist perspective. This approach argues against the alternative sociological perspectives, in particular the dominant positivism which privileges statistical techniques and experimental design over ethnographic and historical approaches.

However, the book also compares critical realism favourably with a range of other approaches, including poststructuralism, pragmatism, interpretivism, practice theory, and relational sociology. Numerous sociological examples are included, and each chapter addresses well-known and current work in sociology.

Reconstructing Sociology will be published by Cambridge University Press in September 2015. See here for more details or to pre-order.

The Relational Subject by Pierpaolo Donati and Margaret S. Archer

Many social theorists now call themselves ‘relational sociologists’, but mean entirely different things by it. The majority endorse a ‘flat ontology’, dealing exclusively with dyadic relations. Consequently, they cannot explain the context in which relationships occur or their consequences, except as resultants of endless ‘transactions’.

This book adopts a different approach which regards ‘the relation’ itself as an emergent property, with internal causal effects upon its participants and external ones on others. The authors argue that most ‘relationists’ seem unaware that analytical philosophers, such as Searle, Gilbert and Tuomela, have spent years trying to conceptualize the ‘We’ as dependent upon shared intentionality.

Donati and Archer change the focus away from ‘We thinking’ and argue that ‘We-ness’ derives from subjects’ reflexive orientations towards the emergent relational ‘goods’ and ‘evils’ they themselves generate. Their approach could be called ‘relational realism’, though they suggest that realists, too, have failed to explore the ‘relational subject’.

The Relational Subject is  published by Cambridge University Press. See here for publisher details or here for Amazon.

Daniel Little reviews Social Morphogenesis volume 1 and volume 2

The philosopher Daniel Little has written about volume 1 and volume 2 of the Social Morphogenesis book series on his Understanding Society blog:

“Margaret Archer’s contribution to critical realism has been an important part of the recent progress of the field, and her theory of morphogenesis is key to this progress. Her recent volume, Social Morphogenesis, represents a rigorous and serious step forward in the project of articulating this theory as both a meta-theory for the social sciences and a potential contribution to sociological theory. The volume includes two good essays by Archer, as well as contributions by Douglas Porpora, Andrea Maccarini, Tony Lawson, Colin Wight, Kate Forbes-Pitt, Wolfgang Hofkirchner, Emmanuel Lazega, Ismael Al-Amoudi, and Pierpaolo Donati.”

– Daniel Little on volume 1

“This volume, like its companion, Social Morphogenesis, is an impressive demonstration of the value of collaborative research in social theory and the philosophy of social science. It is evident that the contributors to the two volumes have developed their ideas in interaction with each other, and the framework has acquired a great deal of substance and coherence as a result.”

– Daniel Little on volume 2

Now in Paperback: Sociological Realism

Screen shot 2014-05-02 at 15.44.06Sociological Realism presents a clear and updated discussion of the main tenets and issues of social theory, written by some of the top scholars within the critical realist and relational approach. It connects such approaches systematically to other strands of thought that are central in contemporary sociology, like systems theory and rational choice theory.

Divided into three parts, social ontology, sociological theory, and methodology, each part includes a systematic presentation, a comment, and a wider discussion by the editors, thereby taking on the form of a dialogue among experts. This book is a uniquely blended and consistent conversation showing the convergence of European social theory on a critical realist and relational way of thinking.

This volume is extremely important both for teaching purposes and for all those scholars who wish to get a fresh perspective on some deep dynamics of contemporary sociology.

Find out more on the publisher’s site.