Centre for Social Ontology seminars (2014/15) @SocioWarwick

All welcome! There’s information here about getting to the University of Warwick. Contact socialontology@warwick.ac.uk if you have any questions or want help finding your way to the campus. We’ll be recording the talks subject to the speaker’s permission.

November 11th: Graham Scambler (University College London)


‘Margaret Archer, reflexivity and an interdisciplinary approach to the ‘structuring of agency’

Margaret Archer’s recent contributions to our understanding of reflexivity in late capitalist society provide useful resources for theorizing across the substantive domains of sociology. Using illustrations from my own work on the sociology health inequalities in general, and my ideal type of the ‘vulnerable fractured reflexive’ in particular, I examine some of the pros and cons of adopting an interdisciplinary approach to the structuring of agency. I conclude with a skeletal research programme involving interdisciplinary collaboration.

December 9th: Alistair Mutch (Nottingham Trent University) 


Routines and reflexivity: consequences of developments in organizations for morphogenesis

Much of the debate occasioned by the development of ideas about reflexivity and morphogenesis has turned on the status of habit. Whilst recognising the importance of this debate, this seminar takes an alternative tack. Returning to Bhaskar’s formulation of ‘position-practices’, it reviews recent work on organizational routines. Developing a position which sees routines as a key emergent property of organizations, recent developments in information technology are seen to cement autonomous reflexivity. Accompanied by an increasing discourse of ‘strategizing’, this might limit the development of meta reflexivity.

January 27th: Dave Elder-Vass (Loughborough University)


Prosumption, appropriation and the ontology of economic form

Prosumption – the unpaid performance of productive work by ‘consumers’ who thus help commercial businesses to generate a profit – is perhaps the most studied of the many hybrid forms of economic practice that have proliferated in the digital economy. A number of critical accounts have analysed prosumption in terms of Marx’s labour theory of value, suggesting for example that as prosumers do useful work for free they are infinitely exploited by the firms that profit as a result. But such accounts analyse the digital economy in terms that were derived from the nineteenth century factory – and terms that were highly questionable even in that context.

The spectacular mismatch between this model of capitalism and the case of prosumption exposes the inadequacy of the standard monolithic conception of capitalism as a homogeneous and universal contemporary economic form – a conception that at a certain level is also shared by the marketised discourse of mainstream economics. We need a new ontology of economic form that goes beyond the totalising concepts of mode of production and market economy and instead provides us with tools for understanding the sheer diversity of forms of economic practice in the contemporary economy. This paper offers the concept of appropriative practicesas a contribution to such an ontology and applies it to the case of prosumption.

February 3rd Beth Weaver (University of Strathclyde)


The Relational ‘We’ in Social Morphogenesis

This paper discusses my empirical application of a relational realist analytic framework to illuminate the role of social groups or collectives, as social relations, in shaping and affecting outcomes for individuals and for groups. Using the morphogenetic sequence developed by Archer, to illustrate the conceptual schema progressed by Donati (2011), this framework affords equal recognition to individual actions, social relations and social systems. To empirically capture the relational ‘we’ in social morphogenesis, however, requires taking the social relation as a central unit of analysis. This means empirically conceptualising the social relation as both context and as interaction, and it means analysing the shifting dynamics and influences on the form and shape of a given social relation. Such an analysis can reveal what triggers reflexivity, what different forms of reflexivity entail, and how social relations can shape and influence outcomes for individuals and groups as well as how such processes shape and alter the relations themselves. Using examples from my own research examining the dynamics of desistance from crime, I will show how both individual and relational contributions are interconnected, and how the manner of relating and the reciprocal orientation of individuals-in-relation towards the maintenance of a given social relation are significant in understanding the relational ‘we’ in social morphogenesis.

February 17thBalihar Sanghera (University of Kent)


Lay ethics, distortions and charitable giving

This paper examines how the nature of lay normativity can involve both disinterested judgements about moral commitments and distortions by social inequalities and discourses. Lay ethical practices are always contradictory and confusing, largely as a result of mixed moral sentiments, incommensurable moral concerns and fallible evaluations of human needs and situations. The social ontology of human being offered in this paper goes beyond the liberal view of an actor as rational, self-interested and autonomous. The paper will particularly focus on how charities are embedded in people’s lives with different degrees of meaning and importance, and how individuals over- and under-value charitable causes and practices in their struggle for symbolic dominance. Individuals’ evaluations of what is worth giving to can be inflected by social divisions, including class and ‘race’, resulting in bias and non-giving.

March (Day TBC): Bob Carter (University of Leicester

Title and abstract TBC

March (Day TBC): Michelle Farr (University of Bath)

Title and abstract TBC

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