DR ISMAEL AL-AMOUDI

AUTHORITY AND NORMATIVITY IN A MORPHOGENETIC WORLD

SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW: SEPTEMBER 2011 – AUGUST 2013
Ismael Al-Amoudi

Ismael is a Senior Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at the University of Cardiff and is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Social Ontology (University of Warwick).

His ISRF project was conducted on the basis of an in-depth ethnographic study of an Occupy! movement that spread in Switzerland in 2011-12. It interrogates the nature and significance of authority in a morphogenic society where social change breeds further change. It considers authority both as a relation of power that is legitimated and as a relation of power that legitimises – that is, a relation of power that makes acceptable social forms that are otherwise unacceptable and vice versa.

Articles & Paper

Blanc, S., & Al-Amoudi, I. (2013). Corporate institutions in a weakened welfare state: A Rawlsian perspective. Business Ethics Quarterly, 23(04), 497-525.

This paper re-examines the import of Rawls’s theory of justice for private sector institutions in the face of the decline of the welfare state. The argument is based on a Rawlsian conception of justice as the establishment of a basic structure of society that guarantees a fair distribution of primary goods. We propose that the decline of the welfare state witnessed in Western countries over the past forty years prompts a reassessment of the boundaries of the basic structure in order to include additional corporate institutions. A discussion centered on the primary good of self-respect, but extensible to power and prerogatives as well as income and wealth, examines how the legislator should intervene in private sector institutions to counterbalance any unfairness that results from the decline of the welfare state.

Al-Amoudi, I. (2013). Authority’s hidden network: obligations, roles and the morphogenesis of authority. In Social Morphogenesis (pp. 187-204). Springer Netherlands.

This paper examines how the morphogenesis of authority presupposes, and in turn constitutes, social roles and relations of obligation. Authority is conceptualised as a relation of power based on legitimacy. An analysis in terms of rights and obligations emphasises the import of identities and, in particular, social identities and social roles in the morphogenesis of relations of authority. Moreover, the chapter indicates that those relations of authority that are observable in any given organisation are themselves rooted in a wider—and typically neglected—network of (significant) others whose expected attitudes are commonly used as a compass for agents engaged in relations of authority.

Al-Amoudi, I., & Latsis, J. (2015). Death contested: morphonecrosis and conflicts of interpretation. In Generative Mechanisms Transforming the Social Order (pp. 231-248). Springer International Publishing.

This chapter lays the groundwork for a realist analysis of the disappearance or ‘death’ of social forms, which is particularly relevant in societies experiencing intensified social transformation. Whilst the notion of morphogenesis can account both for the acceleration of change and for the multiplication of coexisting social forms, it does not allow us, on its own, to theorise their disappearance. Addressing this gap in the theory of morphogenesis opens interesting avenues for the philosophical study of society.

Our contribution is organised around three related questions. Firstly, how should we conceptualise the disappearance of social forms and can this conceptualisation draw from the biological conception of death? Secondly, how do concept-dependence and reflexivity differentiate social death from biological death? Thirdly, how can we observe and interpret the agonies that accompany the death of social forms?

We conclude by providing an illustration of how the theory might be applied to a case with significant current socio-economic ramifications: the disappearance of life-long employment in developed capitalist economies.

Al‐Amoudi, I., & Latsis, J. (2014). The arbitrariness and normativity of social conventions. The British journal of sociology, 65(2), 358-378.

This paper investigates a puzzling feature of social conventions: the fact that they are both arbitrary and normative. We examine how this tension is addressed in sociological accounts of conventional phenomena. Traditional approaches tend to generate either synchronic accounts that fail to consider the arbitrariness of conventions, or diachronic accounts that miss central aspects of their normativity. As a remedy, we propose a processual conception that considers conventions as both the outcome and material cause of much human activity. This conceptualization, which borrows from the économie des conventions as well as critical realism, provides a novel perspective on how conventions are nested and defined, and on how they are established, maintained and challenged.

Al-Amoudi, I. (2014). Morphogenesis and normativity: problems the former creates for the latter. In Late modernity (pp. 193-219). Springer International Publishing.

This chapter studies some of the contemporary problems created by social morphogenesis for normativity. It reflects on situations where morphogenetic mechanisms (conducive to structural transformation) dominate, without ever suppressing entirely, morphostatic ones (bringing structural stability). The questions addressed are twofold: what are the anticipated implications of morphogenesis for those premiums and penalties associated with breaking norms? And what are the historically specific, if socially widespread, manifestations of this change?

The argument proceeds by distinguishing the sequential and concurrent dimensions of morphogenesis. The spread of sequential morphogenesis erodes the normativity of those institutions that are relatively more liquid than others and creates a premium for people following the latest normative tendency. Concurrent morphogenesis creates free-riding advantages by multiplying the number of escape routes, by allowing cheating through multiple memberships, and by offering facile legalist justifications.

The concrete implications of these general mechanisms are traced in five key points: the commodification of relations of solidarity; the multiplication of novel normative problems; the increasing complexity of normative discussions; the multiplication of arbitrators; and society’s general attitude towards marginal groups.

Blanc, S., & Al-Amoudi, I. (2013). Corporate institutions in a weakened welfare state: A Rawlsian perspective. Business Ethics Quarterly, 23(04), 497-525.

This paper re-examines the import of Rawls’s theory of justice for private sector institutions in the face of the decline of the welfare state. The argument is based on a Rawlsian conception of justice as the establishment of a basic structure of society that guarantees a fair distribution of primary goods. We propose that the decline of the welfare state witnessed in Western countries over the past forty years prompts a reassessment of the boundaries of the basic structure in order to include additional corporate institutions. A discussion centered on the primary good of self-respect, but extensible to power and prerogatives as well as income and wealth, examines how the legislator should intervene in private sector institutions to counterbalance any unfairness that results from the decline of the welfare state.

Al-Amoudi, I. (2013). Authority’s hidden network: obligations, roles and the morphogenesis of authority. In Social Morphogenesis (pp. 187-204). Springer Netherlands.

This paper examines how the morphogenesis of authority presupposes, and in turn constitutes, social roles and relations of obligation. Authority is conceptualised as a relation of power based on legitimacy. An analysis in terms of rights and obligations emphasises the import of identities and, in particular, social identities and social roles in the morphogenesis of relations of authority. Moreover, the chapter indicates that those relations of authority that are observable in any given organisation are themselves rooted in a wider—and typically neglected—network of (significant) others whose expected attitudes are commonly used as a compass for agents engaged in relations of authority.

Conferences

EGOS 2013 (Montreal, Canada): ‘Organising Occupy’. Paper selected for the most original paper award.

PROSS Conference (Chania, Greece): ‘Morphogenesis & normativity’

Centre for Social and Organisational Studies (Oxford, UK): ‘Morphogenesis & normativity’.

Lausanne-Reading Workshop, 25th July 2012, EPFL Lausanne, ‘Authority’s hidden network: relations of authority, obligations and roles’.

OCE Workshop, 14th Sep 2012, EM-Lyon, ‘Perverting the Panopticon: when coercive power prevails in an Indian factory.’

Henley Business School Research Seminars, 5th December 2012, ‘Perverting the panopticon: when coercive power prevails in an Indian factory.’

CSOS Annual Workshop, 16th-18th January 2013, EPFL Lausanne, ‘Morphogenesis and Normativity: problems the former creates for the latter’.