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Published on Sep 7, 2016
Emergence is the simple but profound idea that a whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. At some level this idea is tacitly accepted by most sociologists, but Critical Realism can help us to be clear about what we mean when we talk about emergent structures (e.g., fields, institutions, or groups). Critical Realism also provides helpful counter-arguments against various forms of reductionism (e.g, psychological, neurological or genetic) and powerful arguments for the reality of the social. Topics addressed in the webinar will include: various degrees and types of emergence (e.g., epistemological and ontological); the similarities and differences between physical, biological and social emergence; an emergentist theory of social structure; the importance of materiality (esp. human artifacts) for social emergence; and the implications of emergence for our understanding of causation. We will also discuss the importance of emergence for various research methodologies, including ethnography and comparative-historical sociology, and how it can provide sociologists a language which enables them to ask the bigger questions of sociology including issues surrounding emancipation, human flourishing and the common good.