Reflexivity—the critical examination of how we see the world—is integral to good research practice. From this state-of-the-art, accessible tour of its history and contemporary relevance, readers will learn of its importance to social research and to society generally. The text introduces a host of influential thinkers and their key ideas on reflexivity, and incorporates examples from a range of disciplines and research settings. Drawing on the authors’ extensive experience of real research settings, this book: • Pinpoints the importance of reflexivity in social research • Demonstrates its relevance to everyday life • Firmly locates the concept in the history of ideas • Explores key questions about the bases of knowledge and understanding • Presents key thinkers, concepts and issues in easy-to-understand learning boxes The result is a book that provides students and researchers in the social sciences with the knowledge and understanding necessary not only to examine the role of reflexivity in contemporary life, but to apply it in their own research practice.

Power and Action

Power and Action

The body is moulded by a great many distinct regimes; it is broken down by the rhythms of work, rest, holidays; it is poisoned by food or values, through eating habits or moral laws; it constructs resistances.

(Foucault 1984a: 87)


Those writing in the tradition of critical theory took us so far in our examination of the relations between social scientific knowledge, reflexivity and social transformation. Yet to understand the consequences for action of a critical-emancipatory social science we need to travel further. Whilst knowledge may be necessary, it is insufficient for freedom – this would entail not only a knowledge of one’s interests, but also the power and opportunity to transform conditions, along with a predisposition to do so ...

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