Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic Approach by Archer, Margaret S.
Cambridge University Press, 27 October 1995
Paperback, 368 pages
Margaret Archer develops here her morphogenetic approach, heralded in Culture and Agency (CUP, 1988), and applies it to the problem of structure and agency, that is, how we both shape society and are shaped by it. Her aim is to capture the interplay between these two processes rather than collapse them into one, as has been the case with the traditional competing individualist and collectivist methodologies. The morphogenetic approach offers a new understanding of social change and poses a direct challenge to Giddens' structuration theory.
This 1995 book is an important work of social theory and a challenge to Anthony Giddens' structuration theory.
From the Back Cover
Building on her seminal contribution to social theory in Culture and agency, Margaret Archer develops here her morphogenetic approach, applying it to the problem of structure and agency. Since structure and agency constitute different levels of stratified social reality, each possesses distinctive emergent properties which are real and causally efficacious but irreducible to one another. The problem, therefore, is shown to be how to link the two rather than conflate them, as has been common practice - whether in upwards conflation (by the aggregation of individual acts) downwards conflation (through the structural orchestration of agents), or, more recently, in central conflation which holds the two to be mutually constitutive and thus precludes any examination of their interplay by eliding them. Realist social theory: the morphogenetic approach thus not only rejects methodological individualism and collectivism, but argues that the debate between them has been replaced by a new one between elisionary theorizing (such as Giddens' structuration theory) and the emergentist theories based on a realist ontology of the social world. The morphogenetic approach is the sociological complement of transcendental realism, and together they provide a basis for non-conflationary theorizing which is also of direct utility to the practising social analyst.