People

Philip S. Gorski

Philip S. Gorski (Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley 1996) is a Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Yale University and Director of the Human Flourishing and Critical Realism in the Social Sciences Project. He is a comparative-historical sociologist with strong interests in theory and methods and in modern and early modern Europe. His empirical work focuses on topics such as state-formation, nationalism, revolution, economic development and secularization with particular attention to the interaction of religion and politics. Other current interests include the philosophy and methodology of the social sciences and the nature and role of rationality in social life. Among his recent publications are American Covenant: A History of Civil Religion from the Puritans to the Present (Princeton, 2017); The Disciplinary Revolution: Calvinism and the Growth of State Power in Early Modern Europe (Chicago, 2003); Max Weber’s Economy and Society: A Critical Companion (Stanford, 2004); and “The Poverty of Deductivism: A Constructive Realist Model of Sociological Explanation,” Sociological Methodology, 2004.

Academic Web Page

Laura Donnelly

Laura Donnelly is the Project Manager for the Human Flourishing and Critical Realism in the Social Sciences Project at Yale University. She received her undergraduate education at University of St Andrews, Scotland, reading systematic theology and classical philosophy. She earned Master’s degrees from Emory University and Yale University in theology, political ethics, and Islamic studies. She is particularly interested in religion and politics in her home of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her professional interests and expertise include managing large scale grants, program and curriculum development for online courses and webinars, research and publications, communications, and stakeholder engagement for non-profit organizations.

Timothy Rutzou

Timothy Rutzou is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Yale University associated with the Critical Realism Network. He is a philosopher and social theorist with a focus on ontology, continental philosophy, deconstruction, and realism. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University College London studying under Roy Bhaskar. His thesis focused on the problem of structure, difference, and heteroegeneity, exploring the complex relationship between critical realism and post-structuralism with particular attention directed to the works of Roy Bhaskar, Jacques Derrida, and Gilles Deleuze. Other interests include the philosophy of science, the philosophy of language, hermeneutics, existentialism, and critical theory.

Affiliated Faculty


Margaret Archer

Margaret Archer is a Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Social Ontology at University of Warwick (UK) and Director of the ‘From Modernity to Morphogenesis’ Project at the EPFL in Switzerland. One of the key founders of critical realism, her theoretical pursuits have been devoted to constructing and resolving the problem of structure and agency beginning with her seminal work Social Origins of Educational Systems (1979). Among her many publications Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic Approach (CUP 1995) aimed to provide a useful and useable framework to conceptualise how structural and cultural properties impinge upon us by shaping the situations in which we find ourselves. As these structures only become causally efficacious in relation to individuals’ concerns in and about society, she developed an account of reflexivity which presented the internal conversation as the (missing) link between structure and agency (Structure Agency and the Internal Conversation). In addition to her work on CR, Professor Archer was elected as the first woman President of the International Sociological Association at the 12th World Congress of Sociology 1986. She is also a founding member of the Academy of Learned Societies in the Social Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, having been appointed by Pope Francis as President in 2014 and being responsible for the Papal campaign against Human Trafficking.

Academic Website

Douglas Porpora

Douglas Porpora is a Professor of Sociology in the Department of Anthropology at Drexel University. His book Reconstructing Sociology: The Critical Realist Approach explores the implications of critical realism for American sociology. He has written widely on critical realism, including The Concept of Social Structure (Greenwood 1987), his well known “Four Concepts of Social Structure” in the Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour (1989), “Cultural Rules and Material Relations,” Sociological Theory (1993), Transcendence: Critical Realism and God (2001) “Morphogenesis” in Margaret Archer (edited) The Morphogenetic Society (2012, Springer). In addition to critical realism, Douglas is also interested in moral, political, religious and ethical questions writing on a diverse range of topics including works such as How Holocausts Happen: The United States in Central America (Temple 1992), Landscapes of the Soul: The Loss of Moral Meaning in American Life (2001: Oxford),  and Post-Ethical Society: The Iraq War, Abu Ghraib, and the Moral Failure of the Secular (2013, Chicago).

Academic Web Site

George Steinmetz

George Steinmetz is the Charles Tilly Collegiate Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan. He is a social theorist and a historical sociologist of states, empires, and social science. He is currently working on two main projects. The first is a reconstruction of sociology as historical socioanalysis drawing on Marxism, critical realism, and the work of Bourdieu. The second is a project on the historical sociology and practice of sociology in Europe, North America, and postcolonial Africa. Here he looks at sociologists who have analyzed, criticized, and advised colonial and informal empires during the past 150 years. He has also analyzed the nature of colonialism and empire by looking at Germany and several of its former colonies (Namibia, Samoa, and Qingdao, China) in The Devil’s Handwriting, as well as working on social policy at the local and central levels in imperial Germany, visual sociology, and on the rise and fall of the city of Detroit.

 Academic Web Site

Frédéric Vandenberghe

Frédéric Vandenberghe is a professor and researcher at the Institute of Social and Political Studies at the University of Rio de Janeiro (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro-UERJ). He received his Doctorate in Sociology (1994) from the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris, France, on the theories of reification in German social theory (A Philosophical History of German sociology, 2009).  His work operates at the intersection of philosophy and sociology with a special interest in hermeneutics, phenomenology and critical realism. His work on critical realism, What’s Critical about Critical Realism? Essays in Reconstructive Social Theory, 2014, is concerned with finding solid conceptions of social structure, social relations, collective subjectivity and internal conversations by creating a dialogue between British sociology, American pragmatism, French historical epistemology and German critical theory.

Academic Website

Claire Laurier Decoteau

Claire Laurier Decoteau (PhD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2008) is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She is a theorist and ethnographer whose research focuses on epistemic contestations over epidemics, the politics of knowledge production, peoples’ grounded experiences with healing and health care systems, and the effects of neoliberalization on postcolonial societies.  Her work is largely focused on Africa and the African diaspora.  Her book, Ancestors and Antiretrovirals: The Biopolitics of HIV/AIDS in Post-Apartheid South Africa (2013, University of Chicago Press) traces the politics of AIDS in South Africa from 1994 through 2010 analyzing: the political economy of the post-apartheid health system, the shifting symbolic struggles over the signification of HIV/AIDS, and the ways in which communities profoundly affected by the epidemic incorporate culturally hybrid subjectivities.  Her next book project, The ‘Western Disease’: Epistemic Contestations over Autism in the Somali Diaspora analyzes the epistemic communities Somali refugees in Toronto and Minneapolis have forged to make sense of their children’s vulnerability to autism.  She has also written several articles on critical realism and ethnography, comparison, causality and Bourdieusian social action.

Academic Web Site

Ruth Groff

Ruth Groff is an Associate Professor of Political Theory at St. Louis University, specializing in the metaphysical underpinnings of Western social and political thought. Her work crosses the boundaries between philosophy, social theory, and political thought, ranging from a recent study of the Humean metaphysical infrastructure of large portions of modern thought to discussions of points of potential fruitful contact between Western Marxism and neo-Aristotelianism. Publications include: Critical Realism, Post-positivism and the Possibility of Knowledge (2004); [ed.] Revitalizing Causality (2009); [ed., with J. Greco], Powers and Capacities in Philosophy (2012); Ontology Revisited: Metaphysics in Social and Political Philosophy (2012); and [ed.] Subject & Object: Frankfurt School Writings on Epistemology, Ontology and Method (2014). All of Groff’s work either is, or fits into, an argument against relativism and anti-realism, in favor of a powers-based ontology that can sustain genuinely critical inquiry.

Academic Website

Daniel Little

Daniel Little is chancellor of the University of Michigan-Dearborn where he also serves as Professor of Philosophy. His research has focused upon the philosophy and methodology of the social sciences and the problem of social structure and social action. His works including The Scientific Marx (University of Minnesota Press, 1986), Understanding Peasant China (Yale University Press, 1989), Varieties of Social Explanation (Westview Press, 1991), On the Reliability of Economic Models (edited) (Kluwer, 1995), Microfoundations, Method, and Causation (Transactions Publishers, 1998),  The Paradox of Wealth and Poverty (Westview Press, 2003), New Contributions to the Philosophy of History (Springer, Methodos Series, 2010), The Future of Diversity: Academic Leaders Reflect on American Higher Education, edited by Daniel Little and Satya Mohanty (Palgrave, 2010). Among many other things, Daniel Little also serves on the board of The Future of Minority Studies Research Project Advisory Board and is the chair of the Macrohistorical Dynamics network of the Social Science History Association.

Personal Website

Research assistants


Esther Chan

Esther Chan is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at Yale University. Her research has explored religion and its relationship to race, gender, and science. She has published in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Review of Religious Research, Sociology of Religion, and Sociological Forum. She is currently conducting field work examining issues of diversity in evangelical and secular university settings. Esther uses quantitative and qualitative methods. As an alumna of the Philosophy of Social Sciences Seminar 2015, Esther is interested in questions of epistemology, ontology, and critical realism.

Elisabeth Becker

Elisabeth Becker is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Yale University, where she is a junior fellow in cultural sociology, historical and comparative research, religion, and politics. Her dissertation consists of ethnographic research in two European mosques, where she examines contestation over Islam (through multiple lived Islams) and its connections to national identity struggles of multiple imagined secularities in Germany and Great Britain. She has published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Racial & Ethnic Studies and Social Science & Medicine. She is presenting a paper at the Beyond Positivism Conference in Montreal, Quebec titled, “Value Migration and Integration? Multiple Secularities in Conservative European Muslim Communities.”

Paige Sweet

Paige Sweet is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her dissertation focuses on the biomedicalization of domestic violence, trauma, and feminist politics, revealing the ways in which domestic violence victims craft therapeutic narratives and transform their performances of self in order to become legible as ‘good survivors’ to institutions of aid. Paige is an alumnae of the Philosophy of Social Sciences Seminar 2015 and a co-leader of the Graduate Student Working Group on Using Critical Realism in Sociological Research.

Huseyin Rasit

Huseyin Rasit is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at Yale University. His work is centered on the topics of revolutionary struggles, state-formation, and ethnic conflict. In his dissertation, Huseyin examines diverse state-formation projects emerging out of the political crises in Iraq and Syria. Specifically, he attempts to explain why we observe projects as diverse as the Syrian Kurdish Revolution, Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq, and ISIS. As an alumna of the Philosophy of Social Sciences Seminar 2016, Huseyin is also interested in questions of ethics, political ideologies, and social theory.