Interview with Roy Bhaskar -

In this 2013 interview Roy Bhaskar explores aspects of critical realism and the four-planar social being to address the question of social transformation and human flourishing.

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2014 IACR Annual Conference – From the Anatomy of Crisis to the Ontology of Human Flourishing

The 2014 IACR Annual Conference will take place on 18th to 21st July at the International Centre of Critical Realism (ICCR) at the London Institute of Education. Please visit the conference website for further details: www.ioe.ac.uk/iccr

The event will also be the inaugural Conference for the new International Centre for Critical Realism at the IoE.

Pre- and post-conference program:

16th-18th July: Pre-Conference workshop on critical realism

21st July (after lunch): An exploratory post-conference workshop on metaReality.

22nd July: A symposium on integrative metatheories

ICCR conference poster

Conference Postcard

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Eurocentrism and Metaphysics – A quick book review of two prize winning texts

Each year, from the many critical realist books published a few are selected for The Cheryl Frank Memorial Prize.. This annual prize is awarded for a book or article that constitutes, motivates or exemplifies the best and/or most innovative new writing in or about the tradition of critical realism.  This year the award was shared by Ruth Groff and Nick Hostettler.

Ruth Groff. Ontology Revisited: Metaphysics in Social and Political Philosophy 

Ontology Revisited is a sustained demonstration of the inexorability of ontology and the relationship between social and scientific (or metaphysical) ontology. It draws very persuasively on the resources of original critical realism and causal powers realism to show how modern social and political philosophy, pace ‘post-metaphysics’, has in fact been dominated by an implicit Humean ontology via Kant. In particular, where metaphysical ontology and social ontology meet is the question of agency. This analysis leads to (among other things) an analysis of critical theory as complicit with Kant in locating agency within the mind, and a critique of the emerging speculative turn in continental philosophy which de-agentifies humanity by agentifying being all under the guise of Spinoza.

Contents

1. The myth of metaphysical neutrality

2. Hume – Custom as metaphysical necessity

3. J.S. Mill: Humeanism and the Perfection of Distinctly Human Capacities

4. Kant and the Frankfurt School – Freedom as Escape from the Transcendental Subject.

5. Agents, Powers, and Events : Humeanism and the Free Will debate.

6. Metaphysics and the Capabilities Approach: Martha Naussbaum, Political Liberalism and the Idea of Metaphysical Neutrality.

7. Powers, Ontology an the Appeal to Spinoza

2. Nick Hostettler: Eurocentrism: a marxian critical realist critique 

Eurocentrism is innovative in its application of dialectical critical realism and Marx to political and post-colonial theory. It aims to shift the debate about eurocentricity decisively onto new terrain, elaborating in the process a systematic anti-eurocentric approach to understanding modernity. The central claims of the book are that the universality of modernity and the resulting political and social structures of modernity and capitalism, are dominated by eurocentric forms and relations. The world is viewed as Europe (the centre and pinnacle of humanity) and its Other. Nevertheless, the critique of Eurocentrism has been misunderstood or ignored, remaining largely marginalised and underdeveloped.

Contents

Introduction: Eurocentrism and Modernity

1. Fragments and contradictions of an emerging concept

2. Anthropocentrism and Europic universals

3. Marxism and the Europic problem

4. The dual dialectics of Europic theory

5. Critique of the eurocentrism of civil society

6. Ethical economic symbollic representation: Eurocentrism and imaginary dialectical universalisation

7. Capital: Marx’s anti-europic theory of modernity

Conclusion: Eurocentrism, capitalism, and the end of modernity (and post-modernity)

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Video – David Graeber – Debt the first 5000 years

Recently, the London post graduate reading seminar was fortunate to have David Graeber present an overview of his recent best-selling work. David is known for his involvement with the Occupy Wall Street movement and is influenced by critical realism.  Debt the first 5000 years builds on the works of Marcel Mauss and Karl Polanyi by providing an anthropological economic history of debt and seeks to answer a simple question, why do we feel we need to pay our debts? Taking aim at Adam Smith and classical economics, Graeber argues that the early barter-exchange society proclaimed by Smith has never existed. What anthropology finds is a system of social structures based on reciprocity and giving founded upon a common life – a form of primitive communism. From this Graeber provides a compelling narrative of the emergence of money connecting with military conquest, colonisation and slavery, the spiritualisation of debt and ‘paying one’s debt’ as a quantification of social relationships which inaugurates the homo economicus, an exploration of primordial debt theory, an analysis of the modern banking system as founded upon US war debt, as well as offering the suggestion that it is in fact a base line communism which sustains capitalist society including ‘the communism of the rich’ and the realisation that after all is said and done, it is only ever the poor who need to pay their debts. In light of this ideological rubbish, the solution is simple, we need to cancel debts and redistribute wealth – the cry of all revolutions since ancient times.

Unfortunately, this video is not from our post-graduate reading seminar, but provides a comprehensive introduction to his work.

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Video – Tony Lawson – Really reorienting economics

Mathematical Models: Rigorously Testable, Qualitative Metaphors, or Simply an Entry Barrier.

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Video – Margaret Archer – Consciousness, complexity and change: how realism needs reflexivity (July 2012)

In July 2012, the IACR conference was held in Grahamstown South Africa. One of the plenaries was given by Margaret Archer on the reflexive imperative and modern forms of social conflationism. Thankfully, this was recorded and is available on Margaret’s website at the EFL http://cdh.epfl.ch/page-83166-en.html

Abstract: There has always been a strand in social theory that attributes importance to the non-conscious in the concept of agency and explanation of action (individual and collective): psycho-analysis, habitus, Latour’s ‘actants’ and now appropriations from Complexity theory. Critical Realism’s response has been ambiguous; quite ‘soft’ on unconscious motivation and habitual action, as exemplars of generative mechanisms, whilst requiring agential activity and awareness in its accounts of social transformation. I will refer only briefly to the first three instances above in order to concentrate on the incompatibility between complexity theory – its model of the ‘self-organizing’ social system together with the poverty of its (empiricist) ‘agent based modelling’ – and CR. The main argument will be that with the increasing speed of social change (morphogenesis), CR needs to acknowledge the ‘Reflexive Imperative’ in its account of the form the changing social order is taking in the ‘relationally contested organization’ of late modernity.

 

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Resource – From Science to Emancipation – Introducing metaReality

Bhaskar – [excerpt] From Science to Emancipation – Introduction to metaReality

Critical realism was founded on the principle of non-identity, of differentiation, stratification and structure, so it was quite a surprise when Bhaskar suggested in his recent thought that underpinning this non-identity are relationships of identity and that the  non-dual underpins the world of duality. Ever controversial, Bhaskar suggests that while critical realism is arguably the best philosophy for understanding the relations of reality against the irrealist tendencies of philosophy, it is insufficient in this form to explain all phenomena. In particular the reliance upon non-identity cannot penetrate through to the non-dual basis which underpins the whole world of duality, including the structures of oppression and alienation which currently domi­nate not only the world of duality but its non-dual basis or ground. MetaReality is the exploration of this new terrain in rethinking identity and its potential for human emancipation, and this excerpt in From Science to Emancipation introduces us to this problematic.

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Audio – Richard Pring – critical realism as a middleway between nominalism and idealism


In Nov. 2012, the ICCR was delighted to have Professor Richard Pring, philosopher of education, present some reflections on the questions of idealism, nominalism, and essences  in relation to critical realism and in relation to education. Drawing on a depth of experience and knowledge Pring suggests that critical realism offers a way forward in resolving this medieval dispute, and in thinking about the essence of education, the essence of learning, and even the essences of children and students.

 

**Note – the audio quality is unfortunately not very good, despite attempts at editing the quality remains very average

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Audio – Introduction to Critical Realism – London post-graduate reading seminar


By way of introduction Roy Bhaskar outlines the basic principles driving critical realism for the London post-graduate reading seminar.

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Resource – An introduction to critical realism in 15 pages!

Critical Realism: Essential Readings is a mighty tome! It provides access to many of the crucial texts and thoughts across critical realism by way of chapter excerpts. Each chapter is structured around a particular stage or idea in critical realism and has an introduction and overview of the key contributions and ideas.

At the very beginning of Essential Readings, is a short, sharp, general introduction by Roy Bhaskar. In 15 pages it covers Transcendental Realism (the philosophy of science) Critical Naturalism (the philosophy of social science) and Dialectical critical realism (the philosophy of structure and change)!

Bhaskar – [Introduction from] Archer et. al. Essential Readings

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