Critical Realism Network Project Team
This page lists the members and key associates of the Critical Realism Network project team. This team was responsible for the Human Flourishing and Critical Realism project and the follow up Beyond Positivism project. The original creation of this web site was one of the project deliverables.
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 Critical Realism Network. He is the Principal Investigator of the Human Flourishing and Critical Realism in the Social Sciences Project and Beyond Positivism: Re-Imagining 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.
Laura Donnelly is the Assistant Director of the Critical Realism Network in the Yale University Sociology Department. She is responsible for managing and overseeing the research, administrative, and strategic development for research projects led by Principal Investigator, Philip Gorski, funded by the John Templeton Foundation. 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 research grants, program and curriculum development, managing research and publications, strategic communications, and stakeholder engagement for non-profit organizations.
Timothy Rutzou is a sociologist and philosopher who works within the philosophy of social science and the sociology of knowledge and has a number of interests including continental philosophy, political ontology, Marxism, cultural sociology and the sociology of art. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University College London studying under Roy Bhaskar. His dissertation analysed discourses concerning the language of ‘science’ and ‘the real’ across British and French philosophy in the 1960’s – 90’s underpining much of the ‘science wars’. Other interests include the philosophy of science, hermeneutics, existentialism, feminist and queer theory, and critical theory.
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.
Alison Assiter is a Professor of Feminist Theory at the University of the West of England. She is a Fellow of the RSA, an Academician of the Academy of Learned Societies in the Social Sciences and a Strategic Reviewer for the AHRC. She has, in the past, undertaken various management roles including that of Dean of Faculty. Her research is broadly in the areas of feminist philosophy and political philosophy although she is now working primarily on the philosophy of Kant and Kierkegaard. She is interested in the topic of freedom and its implications for the political sphere.
Larissa Buchholz is an Assistant Professor Northwestern University’s school of communication and holds a courtesy appointment with the Department of Sociology. Before joining Northwestern, she was a Junior Fellow at the Society of Fellows Harvard University. Buchholz’s substantive work centers on the dynamics of cultural production and markets in an increasingly globally interdependent and interconnected world. Her first book project, The Global Rules of Art, examines the emergence of a global art field and the different ways that artists become valued worldwide. A second project explores the cross-border formation of audiences and taste cultures through the lens of global art collectors. Informed by her empirical research, Buchholz furthermore engages with broader theoretical as well as methodological questions of transnational/global analysis and explores how Critical Realism can productively address them. She was the recipient of the outstanding Dissertation Award from the American Sociological Association, the outstanding recent Alumni Award of Columbia University, the Junior Theorist Prize of the International Sociological Association, and the Junior Theorist Award of the American Sociological Association.
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.
Laura Ford is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Bard College. With a background in both sociology and law, Laura’s research and teaching interests include: law & religion; economic sociology; social theory; the history and development of intellectual property; and historical sociology. She has published in journals such as Theory & Society; Cardozo Public Law, Policy & Ethics Journal; Max Weber Studies; The American Sociologist; Socio-Legal Review; and The Journal of the Patent & Trademark Office Society. Laura’s in-progress book – The Intellectual Property of Nations: Sociological and Historical Perspectives on a Modern Legal Institution – offers a macro-historical account of the emergence of intellectual property, as a new type of legal property. Laura was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at The Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy (SUNY Buffalo Law School) from 2014-2016, and joined the faculty of Bard College in 2016. Her interest in Critical Realism dates from 2013, when she participated in a Summer Seminar in the Philosophy of Social Science, hosted by Philip Gorski, and Frédéric Vandenberghe.
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.
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.
John Mohr is a Professor of Sociology at the University of California Santa Barbara. His primary interest is in the empirical study of meaning systems. His focus has been on developing applications of formal methods of relational (network) analysis to the study of discourse in institutional systems. He was originally trained as an organizational sociologist and his early work was concerned with the rise of bureaucratic forms of rationalization in the American social welfare sector (focusing in particular on Progressive Era New York City). More recently he has been active in developing programs for broadening participation in graduate education and his research has shifted to looking at how universities manage the need to pursue racial, ethnic and gender diversity in a post-affirmative action policy climate. He has also been looking at how faculty come to be engaged as change agents on their own campus, how institutional logics operate in student cultures and in the use of text mining tools to analyze rhetorical forms in National Security discourse systems. He has been a visiting professor at the New School for Social Research, the University of Rome as well at the Maison des Sciences de L’Homme in Paris. He has served as chair of the ASA section on the sociology of culture and is incoming chair of the ASA section on theory. He serves on the editorial boards of Sociological Theory, Theory and Society, Poetics and The American Journal of Cultural Sociology.
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).
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.
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.
Katelin Albert is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of Toronto. Bridging sociology of health and medicine, gender and sexualities, and education, her dissertation research examines vaccine decision-making as well as health and sex-health knowledge as a relational politics and practice that both reflects and contests normative biomedical and public health narratives. She connects the micro-level practices surrounding parental vaccine decision-making, teaching sexual and health education, and girls’ own understanding of their sexual health, with macro-politics of healthy citizenship, good parenting, and progressivism. Her past and current work also includes an active research agenda in knowledge politics and the sociology of the research process. Her recent publication in this area, “Erasing the Social from Social Science: The Intellectual Costs of Boundary-work and the Canadian Institute of Health Research,” Canadian Journal of Sociology (2014), examines the role of health-research funding structures in legitimizing and/or delineating what counts as ‘good’ social science health research. She reveals the erasure of feminist praxis, critical research strategies, other ways of knowing (such as Indigenous methods), and creative scholarship. Katelin is an alumna of the Philosophy of Social Science Seminar 2015 and a co-leader of the Graduate Student Working Group on Critical Realism in Sociology.
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.”
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.
Paige Sweet receently received her PhD 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.
Ben Manski is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He studies social movements, law, political sociology, and environmental sociology with a focus on democracy, democratization, and constitutionalism. Manski practiced public interest law for eight years and managed national non-‐profit organizations, political campaigns, political parties, and direct action campaigns for over twenty years. Manski is currently a Fellow with the Liberty Tree Foundation, an Associate Fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies, a Research Fellow with the Next System Project, an Associate at the Broom Center for Demography, a Research Associate with the Earth Research Institute, and an Associated Fellow with the Critical Realism Network.
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.
Sam Stabler earned his PhD in Sociology from Yale University (2017) and studies social conflict in morally diverse societies. His dissertation focused on understanding how such conflicts were shaped by the United State’s expansive colonial frontier. His work explores the religious and political uses of territory in the Puritan New England missionary context from colony founding (1630) through to the early national period (early 19th century). Amongst his many other interests. Sam discovered critical realism through his work as a comparative historical sociologist and has found it useful to enrich his understanding of sociological theory, sociology of religion, and cultural demography.