I was first taught by Margaret Archer in 2006, as an MA Philosophy student at the University of Warwick. At that point I was a committed Rortian but the discussions and debates we had in seminars over that year laid the groundwork for my later turn towards critical realism. She subsequently supervised my part-time PhD for 6 years and for the last 3 years I’ve worked with her as research fellow in the Centre for Social Ontology.
During that time, I’ve had countless conversations about her work which have left me with a clear understanding of how it fits together. In essence, the whole thing is one vast project which she’s been working on for much of her life. This internal coherence leaves her work rewarding sustained engagement but it can also make it somewhat difficult to initially engage with. This is why myself, Tom Brock and Graham Scambler thought it would be a good idea to edit an introductory volume of her papers:
Professor Margaret Archer is a leading critical realist and major contemporary social theorist. This edited collection seeks to celebrate the scope and accomplishments of her work, distilling her theoretical and empirical contributions into four sections which capture the essence and trajectory of her research over almost four decades. Long fascinated with the problem of structure and agency, Archer’s work has constituted a decade-long engagement with this perennial issue of social thought. However, in spite of the deep interconnections that unify her body of work, it is rarely treated as a coherent whole. This is doubtless in part due to the unforgiving rigour of her arguments and prose, but also a byproduct of sociology’s ongoing compartmentalisation.
As well as thirteen chapters covering the full range of her work, we’ve compiled a number of other features intended to help orientate those who are relatively new to it:
- A forward from Doug Porpora introducing Maggie as a person and the approach she takes to her work.
- An overview of the overarching approach and key themes which can be found in her work.
- A systematic account of the morphogenetic approach, summing up six books worth of developments in one chapter.
- A first-person account of the development of the morphogenetic approach.
- An annotated bibliography.
- An interview with Maggie about her intellectual trajectory.
Unfortunately the book is rather expensive. We hope people will still be able to obtain a copy and encourage them to order one for their institutional libraries. We’d love to hear from people who are engaging with the book, whether for their own research or for teaching Maggie’s work. Though she’s widely respected within social theory, we don’t believe she’s engaged with or taught as widely as she deserves to be. Hopefully, this collection we’ve put together might help change this.