As indicated in the introduction, the principal aim of this book is to theorise about the interplay of child-centred philosophy, (new) managerialism and teacher mediation via the morphogenetic approach. It may therefore strike some readers as odd that my first chapter is devoted solely to thinking about social structure and human agency. Whilst structural analysis always needs to be complemented by cultural analysis, the reason for devoting this chapter to structure is two-fold. First, in order to provide a robust explanatory grip on structural (and cultural) dynamics, a particular social ontology and concomitant methodology have to be outlined and defended. The social ontology defended throughout this book is a stratified one, grounded in transcendental realism, and practically fleshed out, so to speak, by the latter's methodological complement of the morphogenetic approach. In view of the complexity of the morphogenetic approach's corpus of methodological propositions vis-à-vis structure, and their transposability to culture, it makes sense to spell out in some detail its explanatory methodology before linking culture in the next chapter. However, second, the morphogenetic approach is explicitly counterposed to Giddens's (1979, 1984) structuration theory in order to highlight the primacy that the former gives to ontological rigour as against structuration theory's ontological (and methodological) dilution. Many sociologists were quick to join the structurationist bandwagon (Willmott 2000b). Educational sociology has by no means been immune from this bandwagon effect. However, the reason for this is entirely laudable yet over-hasty. Its laudability derives from the need to avoid reifying social structure, treating it as a 'thing' above-and-beyond agency; its haste consists of compacting them into one indistinguishable amalgam, thereby precluding examination of their interplay over time. This chapter will proceed more slowly, arguing that a stratified approach to structure and agency does not entail reifying the two (or conceiving of them as separate).
At a common-sense level, it would seem that attachment to realism implies a rational grasp of the way things are, which in turn guides subsequent action. However, critical realism begins from the premise that the way things are affects us