Social theory and health inequalities: Critical realism or a transformative activist stance?

Charles Collins, Marjorie McCrory, Gerry McCartney, Mhairi Mackenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The failure successfully to project evidence on health inequalities into the policy imagination is likely related to the fact that the research community is yet to provide an appropriate critical theory of health determination – integrating different social phenomena through identifiable mechanisms and pathways across different levels and scales, and opening up a realistic perspective on how unjust outcomes might be subject to change. On what social-theoretical basis might this task most usefully be addressed? This article critically explores the utility of the work of Archer which has been applied to health inequalities by Scambler, and argues that it is quite problematic in relation to the task of theorising health inequalities. It then proceeds to explore the relevance of a longer-standing tradition of work deriving from the early twentieth century Soviet school of ‘psychology’ led by Lev Vygotsky and coalescing today under the heading of Cultural-Historical Activity Theory. Within this tradition, we highlight the particular contribution of Anna Stetsenko. We argue that this tradition, and the contribution of Stetsenko in particular, merits our close attention in developing a basis for a more expansive critical theory of health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-396
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Theory & Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • health inequalities


Dive into the research topics of 'Social theory and health inequalities: Critical realism or a transformative activist stance?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this