a working group to create a realist sociology of flourishing

Trying to decide whether I should apply for this myself but sharing it here on the assumption that it will be of interest to many of those who read my theory posts:

Human Flourishing, Social Solidarity, and Critical Realism Working Group

2016 – 2017

Organizers: William (Beau) Weston (Van Winkle Professor of Sociology, Centre College), Brandon Vaidyanathan (Public Policy Fellow, University of Notre Dame).

Context: The social sciences have long wrestled with how to understand what makes for flourishing societies and to criticize social evils, while at the same time respecting pluralistic understandings of what constitutes flourishing. Common solutions turn to individual-level theories of a plurality of personal choices, or to group-level theories of colliding narratives of conflicting goods. Yet there are other traditions which have explored the empirical bases of altruism, morality, and social solidarity. The recent development of a thriving school of positive psychology has encouraged a parallel attempt to create a positive sociology. The revival of the virtues tradition in philosophy and theology has led to applied research in how societies embody distinctive virtues.Scholars of social movements have started to pay attention to how people’s moral commitments motivate collective behavior, while research in the cognitive sciences is starting to challenge conventional understandings of deliberative moral action. Most sociologists tend to either offer critiques of social structures that presuppose implicit (but unarticulated) ideals of human flourishing or embrace a strict value-neutrality, restricting themselves to analyzing moral orders and logics.

We will explore how Critical Realism can help ground and guide the study of human flourishing and social solidarity. To what extent do subfields concerned with the well-being of communities and societies—for instance, international development, philanthropy, organizational studies, sustainability, social generativity, social movements, social stratification, and others—depend on conceptions of human flourishing? Do contemporary sociologists share a common understanding of flourishing or do we have competing accounts? Alternatively, is the concept altogether untenable in a pluralistic society? How can Critical Realism’s approach to the social ontology, epistemology, and causation underlying contemporary research on social solidarity both inform and shape our future research?

This working group will read key texts of the Critical Realist approach to human causal powers, the emergence of social institutions, and reflexivity in self-understanding, among other issues. We will discuss how Critical Realism might apply to our own ongoing research projects, such as by influencing the types of questions asked and explanations provided.

Meeting sessions will be divided between discussing core texts and discussing drafts of each other’s work.

Working group members will be expected to continue regular communication in between meetings to continue providing each other feedback on their work.

The working group will meet three times over two years, for two full days at a time. The first working group meeting will take place in June 2016 in Danville, KY. Two additional meetings are being planned for 2017.

An honorarium will be provided for the participants’ contribution and participation.

Eligibility: Preference will be given to early career academics who have completed their PhD within the past 10 years.

Application Deadline: The application deadline for the working group is January 15, 2016. Participants will be notified of their acceptance by January 30, 2016.

Application Instructions: Please click on the link below to submit your application. Each application should contain a) an updated CV; b) a 2,000-word letter of interest summarizing how you think this working group might influence your ongoing work; c) one paper (published or in progress) that illustrates your substantive, theoretical and/or methodological areas of interest that could be shaped by participating in this working group. Preferred file formats are PDF.

Contact Information: Please contact Beau Weston (beau.weston@centre.edu) or Brandon Vaidyanathan (rvaidyan@alumni.nd.edu) with any questions about this working group.

If you encounter any issues submitting your application form, please contact Project Manager, Laura Donnelly (laura.donnelly@yale.edu).