© 2003 – Routledge
In recent years, methodological debates in the social sciences have increasingly focused on issues relating to epistemology. Realism and Sociology makes an original contribution to the debate, charting a middle ground between postmodernism and positivism.
Critics often hold that realism tries to assume some definitive account of reality. Against this it is argued throughout the book that realism can combine a strong definition of social reality with an anti-foundational approach to knowledge. The position of realist anti-foundationalism that is argued for is developed and defended via the use of immanent critiques. These deal primarily with post-Wittgensteinian positions that seek to define knowledge and social reality in terms of 'rule-following practices' within different 'forms of life' and 'language games'. Specifically, the argument engages with Rorty's neo-pragmatism and the structuration theory of Giddens. The philosophy of Popper is also drawn upon in a critically appreciative way.
While the positions of Rorty and Giddens seek to deflate the claims of 'grand theory', albeit in different ways, they both end up with definitive claims about knowledge and reality that preclude social research. By avoiding the general deflationary approach that relies on reference to 'practices', realism is able to combine a strong social ontology with an anti-foundational epistemology, and thus act as an underlabourer for empirical research.
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 www.centreforcriticalrealism.com.