Category Archives: News

The Cheryl Frank Memorial Prize for 2017

We are delighted that our book Morphogenesis and Human Flourishing was awarded the Cheryl Frank Memorial Prize for 2017. This is what the prize committee said about the book:

This is an edited collection on the nature of morphogenic society, the ethics of flourishing, and the relationship between social change and ethics. It is a rich dialogue which can stimulate further debate about flourishing under modern social conditions. While there is some unevenness in the 13 chapters, the book is worthy of the Cheryl Frank prize for how it pulls together and focuses a strong group of critical realists writing about ethical issues. Its approach differs from other critical realist work in the field by Christian Smith and Andrew Sayer. It is the final volume in a series of five that includes volumes on social morphogenesis, late modernity, generative mechanisms, and the crisis of normativity. Recognised as the culmination of this broader achievement, Morphogenesis and Human Flourishing is nonetheless judged on its own merits for the prize.

Find out more about the book here.. It was the final volume in our Social Morphogenesis series.

Acknowledgment to the Independent Social Research Foundation

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.

Convergences of General System Theory, Critical Realism and Theory of Society

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.

Conference: Marking 25 Years of the Cambridge Realist Workshop

From our affiliated centre at Cambridge:

A reunion conference, generously sponsored by the Cambridge Journal of Economics, is to be held in Newnham College, Cambridge, 7-9 September 2015, marking 25 Years of the Cambridge Realist Workshop.

Conference Themes

The Conference Theme is ‘Social Ontology and Modern Economics’.

There will be no parallel streams, just a series of single sessions.  To allow maximum participation of everyone present the sessions will be mostly round tables on specific sub themes, with two or three individuals giving short introductions.

Those already agreeing to introduce various themes or otherwise participate include: Richard Arena, Bruce Caldwell, Steve Fleetwood, Tony Lawson, John Latsis, Paul Lewis, Nuno Martins, Dimitris Milonakis, Leon Montes, Jamie Morgan and Stephen Pratten.

Likely sub themes include (but are not exhausted by):

  • Philosophical Ontology (emergence; causal reduction and downward causation; process and evolution; entities and stability; order and co-ordination; practice including language; comparing competing conceptions);
  • Ontology and Heterodox Economics;
  • Ontology in the History of Economic Thinking;
  • Topics in Scientific Ontology (money, technology, gender, the corporation, social relations, institutions, communities, power, trust, rules, collective practices; method for scientific ontology);
  • Ontology and Methodology (dialectics/contrast explanation; abstraction; methods of isolation; internal critique; transcendental reasoning);
  • Ontology, Ethics, and Moral Conduct.

Conference structure

The conference will start late afternoon on Monday September 7 and most likely end around lunchtime on Wednesday September 9th.  There will be conference dinners on both the Monday and the Tuesday evening, with a reception on the Monday.

Registration and other administrative stuff. 

A conference fee of £24 (£20 +VAT) will be charged.  However this is merely nominal. Participants will thereafter be invited to participate in both the conference dinners plus lunches, etc., without additional charge. Numbers though are limited to about 70 participants, and we do need you to register. In order to register please go to:


Basic (non en-suite) accommodation is available at Newnham College at very reasonable rates (about £48 per night inclusive of VAT). To book a Newnham College room please contact Marilyn Dowling, the Conference and Events Co-ordinator at Newnham College (Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DF) by email:  (telephone : +44 (0) 1223 335803).

Other Cambridge accommodation can be located here (though please check you are not further than you would like to be from Newnham College [CB3 9DF]):

Whether you stay in College or elsewhere in Cambridge, do please register above first, and make sure you have a confirmation of registration. We are restricted to accepting only the first 70 so to register.

Hardship Fund

We do have a small amount of funding to help those whose situations make it difficult to raise the total costs themselves. Applicants for this should get in touch as soon as possible. Apply, sending details, to with subject heading ‘CSOG funding’.

Roy Bhaskar, 1944-2014


Roy Bhaskar died at his home in Leeds at about 6 pm GMT on Wednesday 19 November 2014.

‘It is not that there are the starry heavens above and the moral law within, as Kant would have it; rather, the true basis of your virtuous existence is the fact that the starry heavens are within you, and you are within them.’  (Roy Bhaskar, The Philosophy of MetaReality, p. 351)

The International Association for Critical Realism has established an online condolence book here:

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