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About this site

The site aims to provide

  • a repository of resources related to critical realism, beginning with the key texts outlined in the reading guide, followed by our collection of webinars with outstanding scholars
  • a conceptual tool kit for learning about critical realism and exploring how it is being applied in sociology, social sciences, and the humanities more broadly
  • a global hub for news and information for the critical realist community

The site is part of the Critical Realism Network, created by the ‘Human Flourishing and Critical Realism in the Social Sciences’ project based in the sociology department of Yale University. Since the end of that project responsibility for maintaining the site has been transferred to the Centre for Critical Realism. It is currently maintained on behalf of the CCR by Mark Carrigan and Dave Elder-Vass.

About critical realism

Critical realism is a diverse, developing movement within philosophy and the social sciences, which began in British philosophy and sociology with the work of Roy Bhaskar, Margaret Archer and others. It is a philosophy of science, of social science, and of critique.

“Critical Realism is not itself a theory of society. It is a philosophy of science, a theory of what (good) science is and does.”

Philip Gorski, What is Critical Realism and Why Should You Care

Against positivism and strong constructivism, critical realism argues for the necessity of ontology: the study of what exists and how it comes about. The pursuit of ontology is the attempt to understand and say something about ‘the things themselves’ and not simply about our beliefs, experiences, or our current knowledge and understanding of those things.  Secondly, critical realism argues against the implicit reductionist ontologies of empiricism and idealism. The reduction of being to thought, language, belief, custom, or experience impairs our capacity to make sense of the world, including the social world.

Like it or not, we do ontology and use ontology in our work. Critical realism argues that to understand the reality uncovered by science and social science we need a structured and differentiated account in which openness, difference, stratification and change is central. In short, we might say that critical realism argues for ontology, and for a new ontology. For an accessible introduction to critical realism see this article in the ASA theory section newsletter. We also have an overview of some of the key texts.

About the Critical Realism Network

The Critical Realism Network at Yale University fostered opportunities for interdisciplinary scholarly research and dialogue about the direction of contemporary social theory and research. It hosted a number of working groups, symposiums, regional engagements, and conferences, alongside Philosophy of Social Sciences Summer Seminars for graduate students, post-doctoral participants, and junior faculty. These opportunities provided scholars with the opportunity for sustained engagement and to exchange ideas and insights in collaboration with their colleagues. The establishment of the network was funded by two project grants from the John Templeton Foundation. Further details of these can be found in the History section of the site.