Category Archives: Publications

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. 

Just released – Late Modernity: Trajectories Towards Morphogenic Society

Late Modernity: Trajectories Towards Morphogenic Society

latemodernityThis volume examines the reasons for intensified social change after 1980; a peaceful process of a magnitude that is historically unprecedented. It examines the kinds of novelty that have come about through morphogenesis and the elements of stability that remain because of morphostasis. It is argued that this pattern cannot be explained simply by ‘acceleration’. Instead, we must specify the generative mechanism(s) involved that underlie and unify ordinary people’s experiences of different disjunctions in their lives. The book discusses the umbrella concept of ‘social morphogenesis’ and the possibility of transition to a ‘Morphogenic Society’. It examines possible ‘generative mechanisms’ accounting for the effects of ‘social morphogenesis’ in transforming previous and much more stable practices. Finally, it seeks to answer the question of what is required in order to justify the claim that Morphogenic society can supersede modernity.

Table of Contents:

  1. ‘Stability’ or ‘Stabilization’ – on which would Morphogenic Society Depend? – Margaret S. Archer.
  2. A Speeding up of the Rate of Social Change? Power, Technology, Resistance, Globalization and the Good Society – Tony Lawson
  3. The Emergent Social Qualities of a ‘Morphogenetic’ Society: Cultures, Structures, and Forms of Reflexivity – Andrea M. Maccarini
  4. Contemporary Mechanisms of Social Change – Douglas V. Porpora
  5. The Generative Mechanisms Re-Configuring Late Modernity -Margaret S. Archer
  6. On the Validity of Describing ‘Morphogenic Society’ as a System and Justifiability of Thinking about it as a Social Formation –  Wolfgang Hofkirchner
  7. Morphogenic Society and the Structure of Social Relations – Pierpaolo Donati
  8. Morphogenesis Unbound from the Dynamics of Multilevel Networks: A Neo-Structural Perspective – Emmanuel Lazega
  9. Morphogenesis and Normativity: Problems the Former Creates for the Latter – Ismael Al-Amoudi
  10. Morphogenesis and Cooperation in the International Political System – Colin Wight.

See the publisher’s page for more information


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 

Social Morphogenesis

Social Morphogenesis

socialmorphogenesisThe rate of social change has speeded up in the last three decades, but how do we explain this? This volume ventures what the generative mechanism is that produces such rapid change and discusses how this differs from late Modernity. Contributors examine if an intensification of morphogenesis (positive feedback that results in a change in social form) and a corresponding reduction in morphostasis (negative feedback that restores or reproduces the form of the social order) best captures the process involved.

This volume resists proclaiming a new social formation as so many books written by empiricists have done by extrapolating from empirical data. Until we can convincingly demonstrate that a new generative mechanism is at work, it is premature to argue what accounts for the global changes that are taking place and where they will lead. More concisely we seek to answer the question whether or not current social change can be regarded as social morphogenesis. Only then, in the next volumes will the same team of authors be able to remove the question mark.

Table of Contents:

  1. Social Morphogenesis and the Prospects of Morphogenic Society– Margaret S. Archer
  2. Morphogenesis and Social Change  – Douglas V. Porpora
  3. The Morphogenetic Approach and the Idea of a Morphogenetic Society: The Role of Regularities – Andrea M. Maccarini
  4. Emergence and Morphogenesis: Causal Reduction and Downward Causation? – Tony Lawson
  5. Morphogenesis, Continuity and Change in the International Political System – Colin Wight
  6. Self-Organization: What Is It, What Isn’t It and What’s It Got to Do with Morphogenesis? – Kate Forbes-Pitt
  7. Self-Organisation as the Mechanism of Development and Evolution in Social Systems – Wolfgang Hofkirchner
  8. Morphogenic Society: Self-Government and Self-Organization as Misleading Metaphors  – Margaret S. Archer
  9. Network Analysis and Morphogenesis: A Neo-Structural Exploration and Illustration – Emmanuel Lazega
  10. Authority’s Hidden Network: Obligations, Roles and the Morphogenesis of Authority – Ismael Al-Amoudi
  11. Morphogenesis and Social Networks: Relational Steering Not Mechanical Feedback – Pierpaolo Donati

See the publisher’s page for more information