In memoriam: Roy Bhaskar


Roy Bhaskar 1944-2014

‘We have to see the natural and social dimensions of existence as in continuous dynamic causal interaction. Thus, not only are many ‘natural’ ills and disasters socially produced, but social production may have absolute natural limits and conditions.’ (Reclaiming Reality, chapter 1, 1989).


 For this first blog of 2015 I am starting with an ending – the sad death of Roy Bhaskar, philosopher, on 19th November, 2014.

Roy was an intellectual, thoroughly at home in the debate and discussion of abstract concepts, but also a fierce fighter to make our social world a more equal and sustainable place. His theories are intended to serve this cause – to show the social world is a place of difference, but can be one where every individual has the opportunity for well-being. He argued for a ‘richer understanding’ of both individuality and collectivity (‘Reclaiming Reality, 1989).

I was privileged to attend a series of seminars he gave in 2006, and experienced some of his ‘almost preternatural kindness’, (David Graebur in his obituary in The Guardian, when talking to him about my own work. His theories of meta-Reality helped me make sense of my own exploration of individuals who try to break out of social norms and, indeed, make sense of my own life, especially through his books ‘meta-Reality: Creativity, Love and Freedom’ and ‘Reflections on meta-Reality’.

He was steeped in knowledge of Western philosophy, and that makes most of his books difficult to read for those of us without a philosophical grounding . But his own individual circumstances – his intellectual abilities, and his mixed cultural heritage (his father was born in India), gave him alternative perspectives and he used these to build his critique of Western traditions of thought. His intellectual depth and honesty led him into work that is ground-breaking, and therefore, beyond the comprehension of some of his fellow philosophers.

He leaves a unique gap in the world but his work lives on to inspire us and continue learning from.

We do not create society – the error of voluntarism. But these structures which pre-exist us are only reproduced or transformed in our everyday activities; thus society does not exist independently of human agency – the error of reification. The social world is reproduced or transformed in daily life.’ (‘Reclaiming Reality, 1989).


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