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Human Studies

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 569–599 | Cite as

Ontogenesis Versus Morphogenesis Towards an Anti-realist Model of the Constitution of Society

  • Christoforos Bouzanis
Theoretical / Philosophical Paper

Abstract

This article firstly criticizes Margaret Archer’s Morphogenetic Approach for being indecisive about the realist notion of emergence it proposes as well as for her inadequate account of structural conditioning. It is argued that critical realists’ conceptualizations of emergence cannot but lead to inconsistencies about the adequate placement of agents as parts of emergent entities. The inconsistencies to which these conceptualizations lead necessitate an anti-realist model of the constitution of societies which takes into account that social structures are existentially dependent upon ideational elaboration. This alternative anti-realist theoretical perspective is provided by Ontogenesis, within the framework of which the realists’ idea of the ‘necessary and internal relations’ give their place to the ontological pervasiveness of the culturally shared imaginary schemata. Archer’s denial of a collective synchronic impact to social forms is implied in her analysis of morphogenetic cycles, according to which, structural elaboration post-dates social interaction; and this denial is also expressed in this very idea of emergent structures. Instead, for Ontogenesis, social forms are synchronically dependent on the collective impact of the differently socially placed agents, who have different interests and material resources, and whose interaction only becomes meaningful when drawing on these culturally shared imaginary schemata.

Keywords

Ontogenesis Morphogenesis Margaret Archer Social anti-realism Social imaginary 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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