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PhD Workshop: What’s the point of social ontology?

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 socialontology@warwick.ac.uk 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.

Social Generative Mechanisms: From Competition to Opportunity?

The latest CSO workshop was held in January 2014, in Magdalen College at the University of Oxford. The papers from the workshop will be published in 2015 as the third volume of the Social Morphogenesis series. These were the papers presented:

Monday 6th January

Philip Gorski – Causal Mechanisms: lessons from the Life Sciences

Colin Wight – Mechanisms, Metaphors and some examples from International Relations

Pierpaolo Donati – Social Mechanisms and their Feedbacks: Mechanical versus Relational Emergence of new Social Formations

Emmanuel Lazega – Dynamics of multilevel networks in social processes: hardwired social control, institutional enterpeneurship and morphogenesis

Tuesday 7th January

Margaret Archer – Don’t Forget the Double Morphogenesis

Tony Lawson – The Modern Corporation as an Out-of-Control Mechanism of Social Change

Andrea Maccarini – Turbulence and Relational Conjunctures: The Emergence of Morphogenetic Environments

Wolfgang Hofkirchner – ‘Mechanisms’ around information society

Wednesday 8th January

Douglas Porpora – Why Don’t Things Change?

Ismael Al-Amoudi and John Latsis – Death Contested: Morphonecrosis and Conflicts of Interpretation



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 

Socialization as Reflexive Engagement

XV Congresso Brasileiro de Sociologia
Realizado de 26 a 29 de julho de 2011, em Curitiba-PR.

Current sociological theories of socialization cannot grasp the dynamics of the identity building processes in the nascent morphogenetic society. In fact, they are heavily biased by an orientation to the structural and cultural features characterizing Modern society, which do not hold in the new societal context. Building on the insights of the realist-morphogenetic approach and of relational social theory, the paper goes on to provide a reconceptualization of socialization as reflexive engagement, which meets the two basic challenges presented by the morphogenetic society for young people to develop a full personal and social identity: ‘the necessity of selection’ and the need ‘to shape a life’. This is therefore an account of how young people come to decide about their own set of concerns, prioritizing and dovetailing them, and investing their time and energies in a life project. Such an approach is also critical of all theories which reduce socialization to linguistically mediated relations, and articulates the relational condition of human subjects with respect to the natural, practical, and social order. It also maintains that the time of socialization by the internalization of habits or habitus is over.