Using Critical Realism in IS Research

Using Critical Realism in IS Research

Sven A. Carlsson (Jonkoping International Business School, Sweden)
Copyright: © 2004 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-144-5.ch018
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Abstract

Different strands of postmodern, poststructuralist, postrealist, and nonpositivistic approaches and theories have gained popularity in information systems (IS) research. Since most of these approaches have a flat treatment of the agency/structure dimension, focus almost exclusively on micro phenomena, and reject objectivist elements, it can be argued that they are problematic to use in IS research. An alternative approach and philosophy is critical realism, which suggests, for example, that social reality is not simply composed of agents’ meanings but that there exist structural factors influencing agents’ lived experiences. Critical realism starts from an ontology which identifies structures and mechanisms through which events and discourses are generated as being fundamental to the constitution of our natural and social reality. This is in direct contrast to a constructivist ontology. This chapter presents critical realism and Derek Layder’s critical-realism-based adaptive theory and exemplifies how they can be used in IS research.

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