Political Leadership in Morphogenetic Perspective

by Filip Pierzchalski (Author)
©2017 Monographs 187 Pages


This book depicts a new research perspective of political leadership, in which the multi-level and dynamic leadership relation is explained as relations between the leader (human agency) and followers (sociological environment). In this sense, leadership comprises mutual influences between personal and structural domain. In morphogenesis, the subjective matrix of leadership keeps the division into private and public exposure, as well as individual and collective realization, which in fact means that the phenomenon of political leadership directly depends on the reality of the agent and structure. The author offers a new point of view for his primary research goal, which is a precise and systematic explication of the notion of political leadership in the morphogenetic scope.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1. Multi-dimensional understanding of the political sphere
  • 1.1 Political reality in dialectical perspective
  • 1.2 Methodological tools for the theory of politics
  • 1.3 Syndromic understanding of the “matter of politics”
  • 2. Dialectical interdependence of agency and structure
  • 2.1 Subjective approach to the political space
  • 2.2 Structural approach to the political space
  • 2.3 Complementarity of subjective and structural models
  • 3. Political subjectivity in the morphogenetic approach
  • 3.1 Critical realism
  • 3.2 Morphogenetic approach
  • 3.3 Three-phase morphogenetic cycle
  • 3.4 Political agency in morphogenetic perspective
  • 4. Understanding political leadership
  • 4.1 The notion of political leadership
  • 4.2 Political leadership paradigms and attributes of political leadership
  • 5. The problem of the scope in political leadership
  • 5.1 Multi-level political leadership
  • 5.2 Micro-level political leadership theories
  • 5.3 Macro-level political leadership theories
  • 6. Morphogenetic characteristics of political leadership
  • 6.1 Determinants of political agency in leadership
  • 6.1.1 Endogenous factors
  • 6.1.2 Exogenous factors
  • 6.1.3 Dialectic of conditions
  • 6.2 Morphogenesis of political leadership
  • 6.2.1 Leszek Miller’s case – on the intensification of structured agent
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • List of Figures
  • Explanatory notes for key terms

← 8 | 9 →


Scientific reflections on ‘human agency vs. social structure’ dualism in the broad sense of social sciences, including the political science of, have caused a lot of conflicting theoretical and methodological solutions. These conceptual differences clearly appear in extreme varieties of individualism and methodological holism, where we can notice the conflicting directives, procedures and mechanisms of scientific research on the explication of political reality. In the first case an individualistic tendency is used in the process of theoretical reductionist explanatory mechanisms, where every nomological description, explanation or prediction concerning politics is aimed only (and always) at an individual. In this variant, the primary object in the ontological and epistemological sense, through which one examines the world of politics, remains a single causative agent (the social part) which becomes the primary, and more importantly, the only element for explaining multiform dualism of agent-structure. In the second case there is a shift from individualist justifications of politics for the benefit of a comprehensive overview of the political space dominated by theoretical and research holism. Here we can see the scientific denial of the fundamental assumptions of methodological individualism with regard to the matter of politics for the benefit of constructing a detailed explanation based on multi-level, aspectual and syndromic analyses of politics, which take into account the dynamic emergent specificity of a particular political space (social entity). In this variant, differently interpreted and defined social entity and the exact complexity of higher order and/or structural configuration becomes the primary element for explaining the dualism of agent-structure. In other words, the diversity of form and content of the holistic research perspective, as antagonistic one towards the individualistic approach, raises the question of importance of supraindividualist change factors (independent of an individual causative subject) in the creative context of adequate nomological knowledge on the complexity of the subjective and structural relationship.

Undoubtedly, the described conceptual and methodological inconsistencies in the duality of agent-structure originate from historiosophic dispute over universals, where individual researchers of social phenomena have tried to settle the issue of the primordial category in relation individual ↔ society. In these discussions the topic of potential reality and knowability of an indiviual and social being, in which the problem of creating designates for such names, was defined ← 9 | 10 → as: the collective, group consciousness or collective action3. This speculative dilemma was voiced also in numerous theoretical and methodological disputes, where scientists attempted to scientifically settle the issues of reasonableness, appropriateness or usefulness of the research of two separate explanatory schemes, i.e. nominalist-individualist (resultant assumptions of sociological nominalism and methodological individualism) and realist-holist (the synonym combining realism with sociological methodological holism)4.

For the development of sociological thought the dispute between an individual (social part) and society (social entity) is associated mainly with the wider sociological thought including two different ways of epistemological considerations. On the one hand, we can speak here of an individualistic approach, which treats people as a “sum” of human beings, which means, on the one hand, the supremacy of research and primitiveness explaining the individual being in relation to the social being. As John W. N. Watkins proposed in his the research directive:

According to this principle, the ultimate constituents of the social world are individual people who act more or less appropriately in the light of their dispositions and understanding of their situation. Every complex social situation, institution or event is the result of a particular configuration of individuals, their dispositions, situations, beliefs, and physical resources and environment. (…) If methodological individualism means that human beings are supposed to be the only moving agents in history, and if sociological holism means that some superhuman agents or factors are supposed to be at work in history, then these two alternatives are exhaustive5.

Many representatives of this orientation of research, in which the conceptual core of the scientific investigations constitutes the foundation of psychologism and nominalism include: precursors microsociololgy (the classical authors of microsociololgy include inter al.: Ferdinand Tonnies, Georg Simmel, Charles ← 10 | 11 → Horton Cooley, Florian Znaniecki); representatives of interpretative sociology (verstehende Soziologie6) researchers associated with empirical microsociology (school of human relations, Jacob L. Moreno’s sociometry); advocates of microtheoretical paradigm in social research (Peter Blau and Georg C. Homans and their theory of exchange, rational choice theory of James S. Coleman, network theory by John Scott7).

By contrast, the collectivist perspective treats the society as a whole, which is not only a simple sum of its components, but it is more than just a social unit. In other words, the collectivist narration by assumption authorizes one to reject the nominalist view of the whole society because, in some circumstances, the said whole is irreducible to previously identified and defined parts and/or units. Using Émile Durkheim argumentation means that the research situation in which the world community cannot be translated and explained only on the basis of atomistic argumentation (individualistic), because it is the world sui generis:

Let us apply this principle to sociology. If, as is granted to us, this synthesis sui generis, which constitutes every society, gives rise to new phenomena, different from those which occur in consciousnesses in isolation, one is forced to admit that these specific facts reside in the society itself that produces them and not in its parts – namely its members. In this sense therefore they lie outside the consciousness of individuals as such, in the same way as the distinctive features of live lie outside the chemical substances that make up a living organism. (…) Social facts differ not only in quality from psychical facts; they have a different substratum, they do not evolve in the same environment or depend on the same conditions8.

In this sense, the collectivist approach constitutes the antithesis of the individualist orientation, where the reality of various definitions of the social entity is acknowledged (collective subject, the collective, collegial body, leadership team etc. ), which in given conditions becomes the primary, or even the key and necessary descriptive and explanatory element for the scientific analysis of politics. Among many representatives of the orientation of research, inter al. the following examples are worth mentioning: the structural and functional analyses of Talcott Parsons9; structuralism, especially the one of Louis Althusser, where the ← 11 | 12 → question of automatism and overdetermination of structures are mentioned10 or the systemic perspective of Niklas Luhmann (the idea of autopoiesis11).

At the same time, there was a large group of theorists in the social sciences, who questioned, even rejected completely, the legitimacy of the antagonism between the part and the whole of society. Among these thinkers, the synthesizing strategies prevailed, which instead of binary thinking, chose the idea of creating a multi-layered patterns of triangulation. Based on various analytical tools, the researchers attempted to join contradictory research orders (planes). It was a synonym for an intellectual escape “forward”, where the dilemma of individual vs. society was considered to be an aporetic situation (conflict which cannot be solved, the situation with an inscribed, indelible contradiction), to which research programs which in principle abandon the part-entity logic for the benefit of multivariate or complementary inferences became the only scientific recipe and answer. It is impossible to mention all the theoretical and methodological standings, which tried to “overcome” the individual vs. society dichotomies. Important synthesizing approaches that certainly deserve special attention include: the Hegelian speculative logic (the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa; the idea of the negation of negation; the interpenetration of the opposites; or subjective-objective coincidence12), Marxism (Marxist interpretations of the human being, where, on the one hand, we can talk about objective entanglement of the agent in society, on the other hand, it emphasizes the relative autonomy of an individual13); figurative sociology of Norbert Elias (the idea of the process understood as a rejection of reifiying concepts of “society” and an “individual” to create multivariate and multi-faceted “models, structures and processes of space-time”, in which part and the whole complement each other14); program of structural microsociololgy pushed through by Jacek Szmatka (the theory of ← 12 | 13 → the relationship between microstructures and macrostructures) and the idea of the dual property structures of Piotr Sztompka (the structure as simultaneous behaviour shaping factor for individuals being at the same time shaped by this behaviour15). This is not different in the morphogenetic perspective presented by Margaret S. Archer (the concept of analytical dualism).

From the point of view of political theory and the dispute between the above mentioned styles of thinking, it is nothing but an attempt to analytically solve the dilemma of the status, role, importance of agency etc. of the agent, individual being, as well as collective being, in a specific socio-political space. Additionally, it is often a moment of occurrence of theoretical alternatives with regard to the complex and multifaceted individual ↔ society relationship. In this perspective, the very process of conceptual research gains importance, in which, on the one hand, analytical and methodological primitiveness, secondary character or complementarity of the two sides in part ↔ entity relationship are determined, on the other hand, the degree of determination, impact, influence, relationships etc. of that relationship is detailed.

In such conditions, causative subjectivity (human agency, agent) is understood in this book as proposed by the sociological tradition: driving force of the entity; subjective sense of control over the social environment and/or socio-structural space; economic alienation; motivation effect. At the same time we cannot forget that the term “causative subjectivity” obviously raises the question of whether there is subjectivity other than causative? Yes, there is – e.g. cognitive subjectivity, which (even if it comes down to meditation, contemplation, mental speculation, self-reflection but also a form of activity) is not a direct practical ability to transform the reality. Additionally, perpetration can be direct (the entity as a direct perpetrator of the event, creator, producer and organizer of the event, the only and ultimate decision-maker, etc.) or indirect (the entity as a co-creator of the work, co-decision maker, co-perpetrator/accomplice of a product, etc.). It is therefore justified to reverse the relationship: is non-subjective agency possible? The answer to this question will also be positive, i.e. in the social practice we can distinguish between involuntary perpetration, which is associated with the inadvertent cause of specific events, situations and states of affairs perpetrated by an individual or collective agent. In this state of affairs the researcher realizes that the political reality rarely deals with isolated causative force where the entity becomes the sole agent of change in the social world. In most cases, ← 13 | 14 → the causative agent has a primarily complex nature, which means that it takes different intensity and form, as well as depends directly or indirectly on various socio-structural conditions.

The same regularity can be noticed in relation to the concept of “structure”, which on the one hand, refers both to the social systems treated as an entity “impersonal” (complement to the subject, systemic and a complex determination of its existence in the social world), on the other hand, it is synonymous with social groups, communities or communities that are not only the system of relations or circumstances (e.g. management teams, team leadership, collective bodies, etc.). In this case, we also have to deal with the “practical blur” of the dichotomy between the subject and structure, where the latter may, but does not need to, be non-humanist (“non-subjective”). In most cases, it is a kind of reconfiguration of subjective agency and supraindividual mechanisms that create the structure.

Historiosophical dichotomy “causative subject vs social structure” also applies to the phenomenon of political leadership, where there are two completely different explanatory approaches, i.e. micro- and macroanalyses. In some ways, the two research schemes of research actually exemplify the transfer and replacement of speculative agent ↔ social structure relations for diverse ones in form and content in the political practice of leadership, where competent researchers use various underlying assumptions and methodological directives for scientific explication of complex meanderings of modern political leadership. In this perspective, it seems fully justified to take theoretical and methodological research on the issue of leadership in politics in combination with intellectual dualism: agent vs social structure.

The first research goal of this publication is an analytical attempt to combine, precisely adapt and use the dichotomy-entity structure in relation to leadership, which is formed at the interface between the leader/leaders (subjective leadership) ↔ followers (socio-structural environment). Only on the surface may it seem that such a scientific association of two so different research problems with respect to the range and subject matter has been misunderstood or misinterpreted by the author, but this work in principle has to be the proof of the accuracy of such explanatory research approach where the problem of adduction in politics is explained through the agent-structure relationship; where the political leadership is shown in a new conceptual and theoretical light, with the help and thanks to research tools previously used only to explicate the notion of political subjectivity; process where leadership becomes mainly a multidimensional dialectical relationship between the leading agent and the structural conditions. ← 14 | 15 →


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (March)
Leadership Political subjectivity Morphogenetic approach Agency and structure Human agency Analytical dualism
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 187 pp., 15 b/w graphs, 2 b/w tables

Biographical notes

Filip Pierzchalski (Author)

Filip Pierzchalski is an Associate Professor at Kazimierz Wielki University. His research interests include political theory, political methodology and scientific modeling.


Title: Political Leadership in Morphogenetic Perspective
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189 pages