Dialectic Critical Realism: Grounded Values and Reflexivity in Social Science Research

Christopher Bagley, Alice Sawyerr, Mahmoud Abubaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Critical realism emerged from the philosophical writings of Roy Bhaskar, and has
evolved into a philosophy of social science research using the model of “dialectical critical realism” (DCR) which begins with the researcher’s assumptions that the structures being researched have a real, ontological grounding which is independent of the researcher. This approach has proved fruitful in British and European social science research, but has had less influence in North America. We outline DCR’s four-level model for understanding society and its changing social structures through “the pulse of freedom”. DCR has been used by Marxists, Muslims, Catholics and secular scholars who engage fruitfully in morphogenic dialogues leading to a critical realist understanding of society and social research, which transcends positivist and social constructionist models. Examples of DCR’s application in the fields of childhood
research, child abuse, education, and research on organisations are outlined to
illustrate the working of this new research paradigm. We are enthusiastic in our advocacy of DCR as a model of qualitative research, and for constructing models of positive social change, and are particularly impressed by the substantive and theoretical expositions of DCR by Priscilla Anderson, Matthew Wilkinson and Margaret Archer, whose work we document and review.
Original languageEnglish
Article number72612
Pages (from-to)400-419
Number of pages20
JournalOpen Journal of Political Science
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2016

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