Dr Jack Newman

Research Fellow

Academic and research departments

Department of Sociology.



Research interests

Research projects

My teaching

My publications


Newman, J. (2019). Morphogenetic theory and the constructivist institutionalist challenge. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 49(1), 106-126.
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This article engages with two meta‐theoretical approaches to social analysis, ‘morphogenetic theory’ and ‘constructivist institutionalism’, and specifically explores how the former fares under the critical scrutiny of the latter. The key proponent of constructivist institutionalism, Colin Hay, has offered two detailed critiques of morphogenesis that criticise its position on the foundational sociological issues of structure‐agency and material‐ideational. Although Hay's critiques are largely rejected in an overall defence of the morphogenetic approach, the process of engagement is seen to be particularly useful for morphogenetic theory because it allows a number of important clarifications to be made and it also opens up space for theoretical development. In the course of this debate, accessible introductions are given to both theories, and the similarities and differences between them are outlined, providing clarity to both. Therefore, although this article ultimately operates as a defence of morphogenetic theory, especially in the form proposed by Margaret Archer and Douglas Porpora, it finds a great deal of fruitful discussion in the constructivist institutionalist challenge.
Newman, J. (2020). Critical realism, critical discourse analysis, and the morphogenetic approach. Journal of Critical Realism 19(5), 433-455.
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This paper contributes to the development of a critical realist approach to discourse analysis by combining aspects of ‘critical discourse analysis’ (CDA) and ‘the morphogenetic/morphostatic approach’ (M/M). Unlike poststructuralist discourse theory, CDA insists on the maintenance of two distinctions: (i) between discourse and other aspects of social reality; (ii) between structure and agency. However, CDA lacks clarity on these distinctions. M/M, on the other hand, offers a coherent modelling of these distinctions that can underpin the application of CDA. The paper begins by introducing CDA, M/M and the existing literature on critical realist discourse analysis. It then establishes the M/M model of social change within CDA’s existing social theory by focusing on ‘analytical dualism’ and ‘social practice’. Finally, the paper locates the concept of discourse within M/M’s model of social change by theorizing discourse as one of four objective structures of meaning.
Newman, J. and Hayton, R. (2021). The ontological failure of David Cameron’s ‘modernisation’ of the Conservative Party. British Politics.
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David Cameron’s leadership of the Conservatives took as its starting point the assumption that the party needed to modernise, requiring a move towards the political ‘centre ground’. This shift presented the party leadership with a series of challenges, including brand detoxification, party management, and policy renewal. Modernisation also implied ideological change, to distance the Conservatives from the legacy of Thatcherism and realign conservatism with the values of a wider section of the electorate. In this respect Cameronite modernisation can be judged a failure. This article suggests that ontological contradictions inherent in central elements of Cameron’s conservatism, specifically the ‘Big Society’ and the ‘social justice agenda’ fatally undermined its ideological coherence. It argues that this is an important and hitherto overlooked part of the explanation for the shortcomings of Conservative Party modernisation as a political project. Although this is only one part in a wider explanation for the failure of Conservative modernisation, this case study demonstrates that ontological assumptions matter in political practice.
Newman, J. (2021). The Ambiguous Ideology of Levelling Up. The Political Quarterly.
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The Conservative Party's ‘levelling up agenda’ has been deployed both as a tool for public communication and as a broad motif for the government's policy programme, gaining a great deal of traction as a political message. Levelling up is a vision of a post-Brexit Britain in which there will be greater state investment, educational opportunity, regional equality, and regional independence. However, this vision invokes a wide range of disparate political ideologies without addressing the underlying tensions between them. It speaks to social democrats about tackling deprivation; it speaks to social liberals about equality of opportunity; it speaks to economic liberals about supporting the free market; and it speaks to conservatives about reuniting the nation. If levelling up develops from a political slogan into a fully-fledged policy programme, it will become increasingly difficult for the government to manage the ideological tensions inherent in the levelling-up agenda.