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  • Mark 10:56 pm on November 8, 2015 Permalink
    Tags: , flourishing,   

    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).

  • Mark 6:45 pm on July 14, 2015 Permalink
    Tags: eudaimonics, flourishing, ,   

    Relational Flourishing 

    It’s very easy for the idea of human flourishing to become individualistic. If it’s being advocated as an alternative to subjective well-being, its status as an opposition encourages what Andrew Sayer calls a PoMo flip: a problematic conceptual structure is retained while dichotomies are reversed. In this case, ‘well-being’ as a subjective fact about the individual is replaced by ‘flourishing’ as an objective fact about the individual. But what if the mistake is seeing well-being as a property of individuals? I’ve always liked Charles Taylor’s notion of ‘webs of interlocution’, even though I think it’s overly discursive and insufficiently material:

    One cannot be a self on one’s own. I am a self only in relation to certain interlocutors: in one way in relation to those conversation partners who were essential to my achieving self-definition; in another in relation to those who are now crucial to my continuing grasp of languages of self-understanding – and, of course, these classes may overlap. A self exists only within what I call ‘webs of interlocution’. It is this original situation which gives its sense to our concept of ‘identity’, offering an answer to the question of who I am through a definition of where I am speaking from and to whom. The full definition of someone’s identity thus usually involves not only his stand on moral and spiritual matters but also some reference to a defining community. (Taylor 1989: 36).

    If this is correct then I can’t see how a notion of ‘flourishing’ is sustainable that doesn’t have this relationality at its core. But the parallel risk is that we are left with an overly-socialised view of flourishing, in which my flourishing becomes a gift of social relations, as opposed to something achieved with and through them.

  • Mark 11:26 am on January 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: flourishing, happiness, , well-being   

    Happiness Symposium 4th June 2015 Leicester – Call for Papers 

    This looks interesting:

    Call for Papers
    Is well-being the most appropriate measure of the state of post-crisis societies in the West? Can different tools that assess it provide useful and meaningful information about societal prosperity which can be used by the policy makers? What sociology can add to the discussion about appropriate indicators of human flourishing in modern times?

    These questions require thorough evaluation of the state of society today which can be enriched by the research findings from quantitative and qualitative studies that complement each other in order to provide full picture of the society today. Current recession and austerity measures that were implemented in most Western countries as a result of it challenged the view that the standards of living dominating in the past decades can be sustained in an unchanged form. What followed was the rise of the popularity of well-being measures that aimed to evaluate broadly understood life satisfaction of people in societies that were already being transformed by the economic crisis and its repercussions, in order to define happy life and what matters to it.
    Furthermore, both theoretical and empirical perspectives can contribute to the broadening of the concept of well-being in relation to the post-crisis society.

    The participants of the event will be looking to assess the relevance and usefulness of well-being indicator as a measure of the progress of society in modern times and will seek to answer the question: in what other terms should we evaluate our societies if well-being is not enough?

    The event will give the opportunity to engage in scholarly debate and exchange views and ideas within the sociological framework that will enrich and broaden sociological perspectives on societal well-being. Suggestions for presentation topics include, but are not limited to:

    ·         Sociological approach to researching well-being

    ·         Consequences of current crisis on modern society

    ·         Welfare policies and their role in building thriving society

    ·         Theoretical perspectives on the concept of societal well-being

    ·         Methodological issues with researching well-being

    ·         Components of the well-being of the society

    ·         Gender roles in the post-crisis society: winners and losers

    ·         Inequalities in well-being – inequalities in the post-crisis society

    ·         What do quantitative and qualitative methods contribute to the research of well-being and society?
    We are limited to inviting a maximum of 30 delegates. There are spaces available for up to 8 presenting delegates who should apply with a 300-word abstract and a brief biographical note. Details of all delegates will be included in the conference programme. Applications should be sent to the organiser of the event:  Katarzyna Kucaba (kk237@leicester.ac.uk<mailto:kk237@leicester.ac.uk>).  The deadline for applications is 5pm on Sunday 15th March.

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