Without foundation or neutral standpoint: using immanent critique to guide a literature review

Karl Robert Isaksen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Literature reviews have traditionally been a simple exercise in reporting the current relevant research, both to provide an overview of the current status of the field, and perhaps to draw attention to controversies. From the perspective of positivist research traditions, it was important to neutrally report all the relevant research, which was assumed to be foundational. In this article, written for the Applied Critical Realism special issue of Journal of Critical Realism, I use my own research to illustrate how a literature review might look if it were non-foundational and guided by the principles of immanent critique. Immanent critique is central to Bhaskar’s philosophical methodology but has not been much applied in critical realist empirical research. Following a brief introduction to immanent critique, its history and relation to other ways of grounding knowledge, an excerpt from a literature review is used as backdrop for an extended discussion about various potential applications, and implications, of immanent critique in social research. Immanent critique as method can take the form of noting theory–theory, theory–practice, and/or theory–data inconsistencies. Immanent critique as grounds for knowledge provides the possibility for knowledge and rational theory choice despite a rejection of foundationalism and of neutral standpoints. As a method by which to structure a literature review, immanent critique provides an excellent way to better understand the relevant literature, to formulate justifiable opinions about it, and to guide research questions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Critical Realism
Volume17
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)97-117
Number of pages21
ISSN1476-7430
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

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