Powers and Tendencies Revisited

Journal of Critical Realism 10 (1):80-99 (2010)
Abstract
While powers and tendencies are among the most fundamen- tal concepts of critical realism, there are several problems with these concepts that have been ignored, avoided or glossed. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to tease out these problems and provide clarification and consistency where possible. In the first section of the paper I sketch the existing critical realist conceptualization of tendencies by identifying eight distinct moments in a causal chain, denoted tendency1 to tendency8. In section two I ask: Is there a difference between powers and tendencies? The answer, controversially perhaps, is: ‘No’. In section three I ask: What is the difference between tendency1 and tendency2? The answer considers two possible arguments accounting for the difference, and initiates a re-think of some of the terminology used to discuss tendencies as distinct moments in a causal chain. I conclude by raising the possibility that tendencies or powers are not of an either/or, discrete, dichotomous or discontinuous nature, but are continuous. This raises the further possibility that powers or tendencies can come in stronger and weaker forms
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