The International Association of Critical Realism Conference: Global Change Challenges & Critical Realism Debates

By: Nick Hedlund-de Witt

Global change challenges such as economic decline, persistent inequality and social injustice, climate change, loss of biodiversity and environmental degradation are symptoms of a wider set of issues with roots in established norms, social practices and power structures. They have ontological roots and effects that shape the future of all people and forms of life on planet earth, including African citizens, as history is showing. Interesting new responses are emerging such as new patterns of social mobilisation, new forms of politics and new development configurations. IACR 2012 seeks to raise debate, and critically question the significance of ontological realism, epistemological relativism and judgemental rationality to global change challenges; on a continent that continues to be framed as ‘marginal’ in the global world order. Can critical realist tools and concepts help us re-think development, social mobilisation, nature-culture relations and other social practices such as politics, education, work, employment, health and well being? WHAT DEBATES EMERGE IN THE PROCESS? What is the ‘real’ vision and role of critical emancipatory research in politics, development, nature-culture relations, work and employment, education etc.? What power does explanatory critique hold in contemporary society? Are processes of absenting adequately understood and mobilised in and for transformative praxis in these contexts?


Is emergence an adequate theory of agency and social change as we witness rapid and radical ruptures of the taken for granted? How can and should reflexivity be enhanced through education and learning when education systems are either in failure or appropriated by the market?



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How should philosophy, social science, and social practice co-exist in a rapidly changing natural and social world? What can the relational claims of critical realism offer ordinary people faced by poverty,
drought, floods, peak oil, political failure, social injustice and HIV/ AIDs (amongst others)?


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In what sense is critical realism ‘critical’ in and of its own trajectory; and what can the meta-real offer in the face of a rapid emergence of uncertainty and risk in which traditional boundaries and identities
dissolve? These are just some of the debates we hope to engage at IACR 2012.

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