Interdisciplinarity and Wellbeing: A Critical Realist General Theory of Interdisciplinarity, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Interdisciplinarity and Wellbeing

A Critical Realist General Theory of Interdisciplinarity, 1st Edition

By Roy Bhaskar, Berth Danermark, Leigh Price


174 pages | 6 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780415496667
pub: 2017-06-21
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pub: 2017-06-21
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pub: 2017-07-06
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In this book, the authors provide a much-needed general theory of interdisciplinarity and relate it to health/wellbeing research and professional practice. In so doing they make it possible for practitioners of the different disciplines to communicate without contradiction or compromise, resolving the tensions that beset much interdisciplinary work.

Such a general theory is only possible if we assume that there is more to being (ontology) than empirical being (what we can measure directly). Therefore, the unique approach to interdisciplinarity applied in this book starts from ontology, namely that there is a multimechanismicity (a multiplicity of mechanisms) in open systems, and then moves to epistemology. By contrast, the mainstream approach, which fails to acknowledge ontology, is “unserious” and tends to result in a methodological hierarchy, unconducive of interdisciplinarity, in which empiricist science is overtly or tacitly assumed to be the superior version of science.

This book is primarily aimed at those people interested in improving health and wellbeing – such as researchers, policy-makers, educators, and general practitioners. However, it will also be useful to academics engaged in the broader academic debate on interdisciplinary metatheory.


This book is the definitive critical realist account, in accessible prose, of what science must do to maximize its understanding of the world, and in particular human wellbeing and flourishing.

Mervyn Hartwig,editor and principal author of Dictionary of Critical Realism

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Part I: Antinomies of Mainstream Interdisciplinarity

2. Overview of the Contemporary Literature

3. Contemporary Ways to Justify Interdisciplinarity

Part II: A Critical Realist General Theory of Interdisciplinarity

4. Core Concepts of Critical Realism

5. Critical Realism and Social Science

6. The Ontological Case for Interdisciplinarity

7. The Seven Steps to a Deeper Understanding of Ontology

8. Critical Realism and the Alternative Metatheories/Methodologies

Part III: Applied Interdisciplinary Research

9. Biophysical Interventions Are Not Enough: the Hidden (Holistic) Healing Ensemble

10. The Seven Enigmas of Healing

11. The Biopsychosocial Approach, with Special Reference to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health

12. The Practical Organization of Interdisciplinary Co-operation

13. Understanding Methodological Imperialism

14. Interdisciplinarity in Action: Explaining the Epidemiology of HIV

15. Concluding Considerations

About the Authors

Roy Bhaskar was the originator of the philosophy of critical realism and the author of many acclaimed and influential works including A Realist Theory of Science (1975); The Possibility of Naturalism (1979); Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation (1986); Reclaiming Reality (1989); Philosophy and the Idea of Freedom (1991); Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom (1993); Reflections on Meta-Reality (2002); and From Science to Emancipation (2011).

Berth Danermark is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the School of Health Sciences, Örebro University, Sweden. He is also the Director of Doctoral Studies (and founder member) of the Swedish Institute of Disability Research.

Leigh Price is Senior Research Associate at the Environmental Learning and Research Centre, Rhodes University, South Africa, and Editor of the Journal of Critical Realism.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Critical Realism

Critical Realism is a broad movement within philosophy and social science. It is a movement that began in British philosophy and sociology following the founding work of Roy Bhaskar, Margaret Archer and others. Critical Realism emerged from the desire to realise an adequate realist philosophy of science, social science, and of critique. Against empiricism, positivism and various idealisms (interpretivism, radical social constructionism), Critical Realism argues for the necessity of ontology. The pursuit of ontology is the attempt to understand and say something about ‘the things themselves’ and not simply about our beliefs, experiences, or our current knowledge and understanding of those things. Critical Realism also argues against the implicit ontology of the empiricists and idealists of events and regularities, reducing reality to thought, language, belief, custom, or experience. Instead Critical Realism advocates a structural realist and causal powers approach to natural and social ontology, with a focus upon social relations and process of social transformation.

Important movements within Critical Realism include the morphogenetic approach developed by Margaret Archer; Critical Realist economics developed by Tony Lawson; as well as dialectical Critical Realism (embracing being, becoming and absence) and the philosophy of metaReality (emphasising priority of the non-dual) developed by Roy Bhaskar.

For over thirty years, Routledge has been closely associated with Critical Realism and, in particular, the work of Roy Bhaskar, publishing well over fifty works in, or informed by, Critical Realism (in series including Critical Realism: Interventions; Ontological Explorations; New Studies in Critical Realism and Education). These have all now been brought together under one series dedicated to Critical Realism.

The Centre for Critical Realism is the advisory editorial board for the series. If you would like to know more about the Centre for Critical Realism, or to submit a book proposal, please visit

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General