In Letter and in Spirit: Social Morphogenesis and the Interpretation of Codified Social Rules

  • Ismael Al-AmoudiEmail author
Part of the Social Morphogenesis book series (SOCMOR)


How does intensified morphogenesis affect our ability to interpret codified rules? This paper examines the effects of social and systemic integration on the interpretation of codified rules in morphogenic times. When mophogenesis predominates, we witness both a fragmentation of deep social integration and an extension of minimal social integration over large geographical and social spaces. The result is a social configuration that both facilitates broad consensus on simple issues involving widely shared norms and that complexifies consensus on issues involving less widely shared norms.

Examination of systemic integration’s effects reveals novel forms of inequality in Late Modernity. Actors with access to competent advice, and the capacity to adapt their practices and identity, benefit from intensified morphogenesis as they can make the best use of existing codified rules and can adapt swiftly to rule changes. However, the majority of less privileged agents are burdened by the multiplication and substitution of codified rules. They face situations of illegitimacy and suffer from more flexible agents’ competitive advantage. The phenomenon of unprecedented tax evasion is used to illustrate this argument.


Consensus Inequality Interpretation Modernity (late) Morphogenesis Morphostasis Normativity Power Rules Tax evasion 


  1. Al-Amoudi, I. (2010). Immanent non‐algorithmic rules: An ontological study of social rules. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 40(3), 289–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Al-Amoudi, I. (2014). Morphogenesis and normativity: Problems the former creates for the latter. In M. S. Archer (Ed.), Late modernity: Trajectories towards morphogenic society. Cham, New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  3. Al-Amoudi, I., & Latsis, J. (2015). Death contested: Morphonecrosis and conflicts of interpretation. In M. S. Archer (Ed.), Generative mechanisms transforming late modernity. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  4. Alexander, D., & Jermakowicz, E. (2006). A true and fair view of the principles/rules debate. Abacus, 42(2), 132–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alvesson, M., & Willmott, H. (2002). Identity regulation as organizational control: Producing the appropriate individual. Journal of Management Studies, 39(5), 619–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Archer, M. S. (1985). The myth of cultural integration. The British Journal of Sociology, 36(3), 333–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Archer, M. S. (1995). Realist social theory: The morphogenetic approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Archer, M. S. (2003). Structure, agency and the internal conversation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Archer, M. S. (2007). Making our way through the world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Archer, M. S. (2012). The reflexive imperative in late modernity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Archer, M. S. (2014). The generative mechanism reconfiguring late modernity. In M. S. Archer (Ed.), Late modernity: Trajectories towards morphogenic society. Cham, New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Archer, M. S. (2016). A normative social regulation: the attempt to cope with social morphogenesis. In M. S. Archer (Ed.), Normativity and the crisis of social morphogenesis. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  13. Boltanski, L., & Thévenot, L. (2006). On justification: Economies of worth. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Braithwaite, J. (2002). Rules and principles: A theory of legal certainty. Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy, 27, 47–82.Google Scholar
  15. Dean, M. (2010). Governmentality: Power and rule in modern society. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Durkheim, E. (1892/1953). Montesquieu et Rousseau, précurseurs de la sociologie. Note introductive de Georges Davy. Paris: M. Rivière.Google Scholar
  17. Ewing, S. (1987). Formal justice and the spirit of capitalism: Max Weber’s sociology of law. Law and Society Review, 21(3), 487–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fleming, P. (2009). Authenticity and the cultural politics of work. New forms of informal control. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fleming, P., & Sturdy, A. (2009). “Just be yourself!”: Towards neo-normative control in organisations? Employee Relations, 31(6), 569–583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fleming, P., & Sturdy, A. (2011). Being yourself in the electronic sweatshop: New forms of normative control. Human Relations, 64, 177–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Random House LLC.Google Scholar
  22. Henry, J. S. (2012). The price of offshore revisited. Document prepared for the Tax Justice Network. Last accessed 29 Apr 2015.
  23. House of Commons. (2013). Tax avoidance: The role of large accountancy firms. Accessed 29 Apr 2015.
  24. King, A. (1999). Against structure: A critique of morphogenetic social theory. The Sociological Review, 47(2), 199–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kripke, S. A. (1982). Wittgenstein on rules and private language: An elementary exposition. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  26. Kunda, G. (1992). Engineering culture: Control and commitment in a high-tech corporation. Philadlephia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Kusch, M. (2006). A sceptical guide to meaning and rules: Defending Kripke’s Wittgenstein. Chesham: Acumen.Google Scholar
  28. Lockwood, D. (1964). Social integration and system integration. In G. K. Zollschan & W. Hirsch (Eds.), Explorations in social change (pp. 244–258). London: Routledge & Paul Kegan.Google Scholar
  29. Mead, G. H. (1967). Mind, self and society from the standpoint of a social behaviourist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Montesquieu. (1748). De l’esprit des lois. Available on (checked 29 Apr 2015).
  31. Morgan, J. (2011). Ethos and reform of the finance systems, a tentative argument. Real-World Economic Review, 58, 89–94.Google Scholar
  32. Norton, S. D. (2012). Judicial interpretation of the will of the state: A Hegelian perspective in the context of taxation. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 23(2), 117–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Porpora, D. V. (1993). Cultural rules and material relations. Sociological Theory, 11(2), 212–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Porpora, D. V. (2001). Landscapes of the soul: The loss of moral meaning in American life. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Porpora, D. V. (2015). Why don’t things change? The matter of morphostasis. In M. S. Archer (Ed.), Generative mechanisms transforming the social order. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  36. Prakash, G. (1999). Another reason: Science and the modern imagination of India. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Rawls, J. (2001). Justice as fairness, a restatement. Cambridge, MA/London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Sikka, P., & Willmott, H. (1995). Illuminating the state-profession relationship: Accountants acting as department of trade and industry’s investigators. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 6(4), 341–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Weber, M. (1978). Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  40. Wittgenstein, L. (1958). Philosophical investigations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cardiff Business SchoolUniversity of CardiffCardiffUK

Personalised recommendations