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Four concepts of social structure

The concept of ‘social structure’ is central to sociological inquiry yet there is little agreement about what it means. This matters because social explanation hinges on what we take ‘structure’ to be and a lack of ubiquity about the term helps fuel the disagreements and confusions which are already rife […]

What is progress in social theory?

At last year’s International Association for Critical Realism conference, I saw perhaps the most impressive conference presentation I’d witnessed in my five or six years of going to conferences regularly. Jamie Morgan demolished the notion of ‘norm circles’ offered by Dave Elder-Vass and he did so in a way which made a […]

Interrogating the normative

The Causal Power of Social Structures Dave Elder-Vass, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010, £50.00, 240pp. Explaining the Normative Stephen Turner, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2010, £18.99, 240pp. Normativity is a concept with a contentious history. While most would accept its centrality to everyday human experience, the question of what exactly it is […]

Explanatory Methodology

What cultural resources play a role in the lives of participants? How do they enable and constrain the commitments, projects and modus vivendi of participants? This constraint and enablement is mediated through internal conversation. Which cultural resources under which circumstances lead to personal morphogenesis? How do the former and the latter relate in leading to this outcome? Which cultural resources under which circumstances lead […]

Dave Elder-Vass on Normativity

Although only a single chapter of this book deals explicitly with normativity, it is a credit to Elder-Vass that much of the book either supports or proceeds from his arguments about norms. In this post I will only engage with this one chapter but it’s worth noting that the book […]