Margaret Archer

Margaret Archer heads the project ‘From Modernity to Morphogenesis’. She was elected as the first woman President of the International Sociological Association at the 12th World Congress of Sociology. She is a founder member of both the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Academy of Learned Societies in the Social Sciences and is a trustee of the Centre for Critical Realism. She has just been appointed by Pope Francis as President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (March 2014).

Her theoretical work over the last twenty-five years has been devoted to the problem of structure and agency. Related to this is the problem of objectivity and subjectivity.


International Centre for Critical Realism, Margaret S. Archer: Lecture ‘Sociology before Critical Realism’, followed by Routledge Book Launch. Institute of Education, London, February 25th, 2013.

Society for Research into Higher Education. International Research and Researchers’ Network Seminar, ‘Archerian analyses: Applying Margaret S. Archer’s theoretical perspectives to research in HE’. London, February 26th 2013.

Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Annual Plenary, ‘Governance in a Changing World’. Margaret S. Archer on ‘Solidarity and Governance’, April 25-7th 2013, Vatican City (to be published)

University of Helsinki, Symposium on Agency, Margaret S. Archer on ‘The Relational versus the Plural Subject’, University of Helsinki, June 6-7 2013 (to be published)

International Association for Critical Realism, Annual Conference: ‘Organising Alternative Futures’, Margaret S. Archer keynote, ‘The Generative Mechanisms of Late Modernity’, University of Nottingham, 27th-31st July 2013.

Yale University, Workshop; ‘Critical Realism and the Morphogenetic Approach’, Margaret S. Archer 5 lectures, Yale Law School, New Haven, USA, August 5th – 7th 2013.

International Association for Critical Realism, ‘Critical Realism: Problems and Prospects’, Margaret S. Archer on the theme, New York University, USA, August 14th-15th 2013.

Sciences Po, Centre de Sociologie des Organisations, ‘Journée d’études avec Margaret S. Archer’, ‘Reseaux et Réflexivité’, Paris, 30th September 2013.

Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Conference ‘Trafficking in Human Beings: Modern Slavery’, Margaret S. Archer keynote, ‘A Sociological Approach to Trafficking in Human Beings’, 2-3rd November 2013, Vatican City.

London School of Economics, Hellenic Observatory, Conference on ‘Social Change: Theory and Applications, 9th’ March 2012, Margaret S. Archer: ‘Social Change and Changes in Reflexivity’.

University of Southern California, Los Angeles, The Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, June 20th-24th, 2012 Conference on ‘Human Agency, Social Causality and Moral Responsibility’. Margaret S. Archer: ‘Commitments and Reflexivity: Sources of Market Critique and Change’.

International Association for Critical Realism, Annual Conference, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, 16th-20th July 2012. Margaret S. Archer: ‘Consciousness, Complexity and Change: how Realism needs Reflexivity’.

Nordic Network for Critical Realism, Annual Conference, Gothenburg, 29th-30th October 2012. Margaret S. Archer: ‘What makes Reflexivity Imperative?’

Workshop of the Institute of Advanced Catholic Studies,‘True Wealth of Nations Project’, Margaret S. Archer on ‘Emergent Properties and the Problem of Moral Responsibility’,   5th-6th March 2011, Hilton Hotel, Chicago USA.

Social Science Research Institute of Spain Seminar on ‘Tomorrow’s Civil Society in Spain and Europe’, Margaret S. Archer on ‘Reflexivity and Civil Society’, Madrid, Universidad Autonomià, June 10th-11th, 2011.

Brazilian Sociological Association’s Annual Conference, Margaret S. Archer keynote ‘The Reflexive Imperative’, Curitiba, 25th – 29th July, 2011

International Association of Critical Realism Annual Conference, Margaret S. Archer keynote ‘Reflexivity and Realism’, University of Oslo, Norway, 5th – 7th September, 2011.

Papers & Articles

Archer, M. S. (2013). Collective reflexivity: A relational case for it. In Conceptualizing Relational Sociology (pp. 145-161). Palgrave Macmillan US.

Why has Reflexivity attracted so little attention among relational social theorists, at least in North America? Reflexivity, on my definition, is a thoroughly relational phenomenon: “the regular exercise of the mental ability, shared by all normal people, to consider themselves in relation to their social contexts and vice versa” (Archer 2007, 4). Nothing hangs on the term “context,” which is used for its neutrality given that some term is essential because there can never be “context-less action.” If preferred, “situations,” “circumstances,” or “environment” can be substituted and dispute about theontological constitution of all four referents placed in parentheses. The term used is irrelevant to the main point, at least for all who rightly eschew the “ontic fallacy,” namely that how things are determines how we see, think, and talk about them. The point being made is that people are necessarily reflexive about their “context” or “circumstances” when they ask themselves quotidian questions (in internal or external conversation) such as: “What shall we have for dinner?,” “Do I need to visit the dentist?,” or “Can one of us get back from work in time to pick the kids up from school?” Obviously, subjects’ reflexive deliberations are exercised under their own epistemic descriptions, as is the case for all thought and talk.

Margaret S. Archer & Lectio Magistralis, ‘Who we are is what we care about’, April 9th 2013, Vatican City.

Archer, M. (2012). On the vocation of sociology as morphogenesis intensifies.Global Dialogue. Newsletter of the International Sociological Association,3(1).

Archer, M. S. (2012). Education, subsidiarity and solidarity: past, present and future. Sociology and Catholic Social Teaching: Contemporary Theory and Research, 6, 217.

Archer, M. S., & Donati, P. (2008). Pursuing the common good: How solidarity and subsidiarity can work together. Proceedings of the XIV Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Vatican Press, Vatican City.

Archer, M. S. (2013). 5 Reconceptualizing socialization as reflexive engagement. Engaging with the World: Agency, Institutions, Historical Formations, 103.

Archer, M. S. (2013). Morphogenic society: Self-government and self-organization as misleading metaphors. In Social morphogenesis (pp. 145-164). Springer Netherlands.

Social theory has always been a borrower. With the increasing rapidity of social and systemic change, the attractions of cybernetics and general systems theory have grown over half a century. This chapter traces four succeeding phases in systems theory, treating all as misleading metaphors for conceptualizing processes of social change: (i) ‘variety’ in the First cybernetics; (ii) ‘heterogeneity’ in the Second cybernetics; (iii) societies as ‘complex adaptive systems’; (iv) the social as a ‘self-organizing system’ in Complexity Theory. It is argued that the social order is neither ‘self-governing’ nor ‘self-organizing’, but is rather a relationally contested organization. Social morphogenesis has to be understood in its own terms as the interplay between the properties and powers of structure (constraining, enabling, and motivating), culture (ideas, ideals, and ideational commitments) and agency (consciousness, reflexivity, and intentionality). The outcomes are never precisely what any group seeks, which fosters further contestation and morphogenesis.

Archer, M. (2011). Riflessività. Sociologia e Politiche Sociali.

Archer, M. S. (2010). The Current Crisis: Consequences of neglecting the four key principles of Catholic Social Doctrine. THE PONTIFICAL ACADEMY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, 118.


Margaret S. Archer, (2013), Człowieczenstwo: Problem sprawstwa, Polish translation of my Being Human, CUP, with introduction, Nomos.