THE
MORPHOGENETIC
APPROACH
Margaret S. Archer
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
The Structure of Social Theories
SO → → → EP → → → PST
Social Ontology Explanatory Practical
Programme Social Theory
Neces...
The role of Social Ontology in
Explanation
• All theories have a social ontology – implicit or explicit –
defining the con...
44
People on fixed incomes
The effects of inflation
on those with fixed
incomes.
Objective constraints
are undeniable,
des...
Analytical Dualism & the
Morphogenetic Approach
• Through analytical dualism we can separate ‘structure’ and
‘agency’ and ...
The basic Morphogenetic sequence
Structural Conditioning
______________________________
T 1
Social Interaction
___________...
How we work with a Research Question
Generally at T4 with something problematic
Usually move backwards to T2 –T3, asking...
8
Structural and cultural factors shape the social context for
agents (T1)
‘These results of past actions are deposited in...
Interaction T2 – T3
9
At T4
• Morphogenesis/stasis at T4 is not just the
eradication/modification of previous structural/cultural
properties and...
Educational Interaction in Decentralized Systems
Central
Government
Teaching
Profession
External
Interest
Groups
Education...
Educational interaction in the Centralized System
Central
Government
Teaching
Profession
External
Interest
Groups
Educatio...
Working with Morphogenetic
Cycles
13
•
The Riddle of Society
• What is it that depends on human intentionality but never
conforms to anyone’s intentions?
• What ...
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The morphogenetic approach - Margaret S. Archer

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Presentation at HEA-funded workshop 'A dialogue between phenomenology and realism in pedagogical and educational research '.

The workshop aimed to stimulate debate around the philosophical underpinnings of different research methodologies, whose shared terminology is often interpreted in radically contrasting ways, and in particular, to encourage dialogue between realist and phenomenological research traditions. The workshop was aimed at pedagogical and educational researchers who are looking to expand their methodological repertoire and to explore new ways of teaching research methods.

This presentation is part of a related blog post that provides an overview of the event: http://bit.ly/1oww6m1

For further details of the HEA's work on teaching research methods in the Social Sciences see: http://bit.ly/RIZtTz

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The morphogenetic approach - Margaret S. Archer

  1. 1. THE MORPHOGENETIC APPROACH Margaret S. Archer Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
  2. 2. The Structure of Social Theories SO → → → EP → → → PST Social Ontology Explanatory Practical Programme Social Theory Necessary Morphogenetic Research (Bhaskar’s CR) Framework Question 2
  3. 3. The role of Social Ontology in Explanation • All theories have a social ontology – implicit or explicit – defining the constituents of the social world. • The S.O. performs a role of conceptual regulation because it governs those concepts that are deemed admissible in description as in explanation (an atheist cannot attribute his well-being to divine providence) • In itself, a social ontology explains nothing, although it may exclude certain explanations, cast in ‘improper’ terms. • In itself, an SO tells no-one how to go about explaining anything. For this, need an E.P. It also explains nothing • Explanations are the job of P.S.Ts. 3
  4. 4. 44 People on fixed incomes The effects of inflation on those with fixed incomes. Objective constraints are undeniable, despite their (mis)understanding But their subjectivity explains what they actually do
  5. 5. Analytical Dualism & the Morphogenetic Approach • Through analytical dualism we can separate ‘structure’ and ‘agency’ and examine their interplay to account for the structuring and re-structuring of the social order. • Possible because ‘structure’ and ‘agency’ are different kinds of emergent entities, with different properties and powers, despite the fact that they are crucial for each other’s formation, continuation and development • Secondly, ‘structure’ and ‘agency’ operate diachronically over different time periods because:- - (i) structure necessarily pre-dates the action(s) that transform it and, - (ii) structural elaboration necessarily post-dates those actions 5
  6. 6. The basic Morphogenetic sequence Structural Conditioning ______________________________ T 1 Social Interaction ________________________ T 2 T 3 Structural Elaboration _____________________ ­ T 4 [Analytical dualism because project all lines forward and backwards and they join up: we have broken the flow] 6
  7. 7. How we work with a Research Question Generally at T4 with something problematic Usually move backwards to T2 –T3, asking ‘who did what’, ‘why’, ‘against what opposition’? Often not possible to find les responsables (MI) because compromise & concession involved (T4 change not exactly what anyone wanted) Then have to backtrack further to T1 to the structural context of action - there is no contextless action – i.e. the source of motives, of positions prises, of ideological commitments, of strategies adopted and what was wanted (and not wanted), which moved agents to interaction. That cannot be understood without the prior structural context conditioning interaction between T1 and T2 . 7
  8. 8. 8 Structural and cultural factors shape the social context for agents (T1) ‘These results of past actions are deposited in the form of current situations. They account for what there is (structurally and culturally) to be distributed and also for the shape of such distributions; for the nature of the extant role array, the proportion of positions available at any time and the advantages/disadvantages associated with them; for the institutional configuration present and for those second order emergent properties of compatibility and incompatibility … In these ways, situations are objectively defined for their subsequent occupants or incumbents’. Archer, 1995. Realist Social Theory, p. 201.’
  9. 9. Interaction T2 – T3 9
  10. 10. At T4 • Morphogenesis/stasis at T4 is not just the eradication/modification of previous structural/cultural properties and powers • But, the ELABORATION of:- - a new ‘relational organization’ with powers of downward causation - of new constraints and enablements for different groups/ new opportunity costs - new ‘generative mechanisms governing how things work • Also, the double morphogenesis of agency, through re- grouping, even if these are the same people. 10
  11. 11. Educational Interaction in Decentralized Systems Central Government Teaching Profession External Interest Groups Educational change Polity directed Political Manipulation Political Manipulation External Transactions Internal Initiation 11
  12. 12. Educational interaction in the Centralized System Central Government Teaching Profession External Interest Groups Educational change Aggregation of demands Polity directed Political Manipulation Political Manipulation 12
  13. 13. Working with Morphogenetic Cycles 13 •
  14. 14. The Riddle of Society • What is it that depends on human intentionality but never conforms to anyone’s intentions? • What is it that relies upon people’s concepts but which they never fully know? • What is it that depends upon human activity but never corresponds to the actions of even the most powerful? • What is it that has no form without us, yet which forms us as we seek its transformation? • What is it that never satisfies the precise designs of anyone yet because of this always motivates its reconstitution? THUS, MORPHOGENESIS CONTINUES …… 14
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