Culture, context and society – The underexplored potential of critical realism as a philosophical framework for theory and practice

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Abstract

This article explains how the meta-theoretical framework of critical realism addresses methodological issues of concern to social psychologists and social scientists. The article outlines key tenets of critical realism – its notion of the stratified nature of reality and generative mechanisms as powers in natural and social objects that cause things; its notion of knowledge of reality as stratified rather than only empirical; its acceptance of epistemological but not judgmental relativism; and its monist ontology. The article then introduces realist social theory to provide a framework for understanding the society–person connection. It explains how issues relating to culture, context, and society raised in the indigenous psychology English literature might be addressed from a critical realist perspective. Some implications arising from adopting a critical realist perspective in research practice are outlined and social psychologists and social scientists are encouraged to explore the potential of critical realism as a meta-theoretical framework and new paradigm.

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