Critical Realism, Dialectics, and Qualitative Research Methods


  • I would like to thank the referees for their comments. The normal disclaimers apply.


Critical realism has been an important advance in social science methodology because it develops a qualitative theory of causality which avoids some of the pitfalls of empiricist theories of causality. But while there has been ample work exploring the relationship between critical realism and qualitative research methods there has been noticeably less work exploring the relationship between dialectical critical realism and qualitative research methods. This seems strange especially since the founder of the philosophy of critical realism, Roy Bhaskar, employs and develops a range of dialectical concepts in his later work in order to extend the main tenets of critical realism. The aim of this paper is to draw on Bhaskar's later work, as well as Marxism, to reorient a critical realist methodology towards a dialectical approach for qualitative research. In particular, the paper demonstrates how dialectical critical realism can begin to provide answers to three common criticisms made against original critical realist methodology: that the qualitative theory of causal powers and structures developed by critical realists is problematic; that critical realist methodology contains values which prove damaging to empirical research; and that critical realists often have difficulties in researching everyday qualitative dilemmas that people face in their daily lives.