Realist social theory:
the morphogenetic approach
Margaret S. Archer
Cambridge University Press 1995. P1
“Social reality is unlike any other because of its human constitution. It is
different from natural reality whose defining feature is self-subsistence:
for its existence does not depend upon us, a fact which is not compromised
by our human ability to intervene in the world of nature and change it.
Society is more different still from transcendental reality, where divinity
is both self-subsistent and unalterable at our behest; qualities which are
not contravened by responsiveness to human intercession. The nascent
‘social sciences’ had to confront this entity, society, and deal conceptually
with its three unique characteristics.
Firstly, that it is inseparable from its human components because the
very existence of society depends in some way upon our activities.
Secondly, that society is characteristically transformable; it has no
immutable form or even preferred state. It is like nothing but itself, and
what precisely it is like at any time depends upon human doings and their
consequences. Thirdly, however, neither are we immutable as social
agents, for what we are and what we do as social beings are also affected by
the society in which we live and by our very efforts to transform it.”