Category Archives: Other books

Structure, Culture and Agency: Selected Papers of Margaret Archer

This collection, edited by Tom Brock, Mark Carrigan and Graham Scambler, seeks to celebrate the scope and accomplishments of Margaret Archer’s 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.

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Corporate Social Entrepreneurship – Christine Hemingway

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.

Reconstructing Sociology – 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 is published by Cambridge University Press. See here for more details.

The Relational Subject – 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.

Sociological Realism

Sociological Realism, edited By Andrea Maccarini, Emmanuele Morandi, Riccardo Prandini, 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. 


Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 20.14.44We’ve all seen the images from Abu Ghraib: stress positions, US soldiers kneeling on the heads of prisoners, and dehumanizing pyramids formed from black-hooded bodies. We have watched officials elected to our highest offices defend enhanced interrogation in terms of efficacy and justify drone strikes in terms of retribution and deterrence. But the mainstream secular media rarely addresses the morality of these choices, leaving us to ask individually: Is this right?

In this singular examination of the American discourse over war and torture, Douglas V. Porpora, Alexander Nikolaev, Julia Hagemann May, and Alexander Jenkins investigate the opinion pages of American newspapers, television commentary, and online discussion groups to offer the first empirical study of the national conversation about the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the revelations of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib a year later. Post-Ethical Society is not just another shot fired in the ongoing culture war between conservatives and liberals, but a pensive and ethically engaged reflection of America’s feelings about itself and our actions as a nation. And while many writers and commentators have opined about our moral place in the world, the vast amount of empirical data amassed in Post-Ethical Society sets it apart—and makes its findings that much more damning.

See the publisher’s page for more information