Chaos and the Concept of Structure--R.D. Smith |
NON-LINEAR SOCIO-DYNAMICS: Explications Implications Applications
A 4-Dimensional Bifurcation Map
Editor's Note:
The new sciences of Chaos and Complexity change forever our understandings of the concept of sturcture. Instead of the solid geometries of Euclid, one must turn to the fractal geometries of Mandelbrot and others developed in the past 60 years.
R.D. Smith has provided an excellent argument for viewing SOCIAL STRUCTURE as a fractal rather than as a solid object. He focuses upon CLASS, RACE, GENDER and ETHNICITY as case in point.
Marxists and others doing work in class structure, structures of gender, race
and or ethnicity would do well to
use this entirely new understanding of Structure as basis of any theoretical statements
they might want to make.
For a much more discursive, much less mathematical treatment of the concept of structure, see an article, Chaos and the Concept of Structure, by James Yarbrough and myself at:
Chaos and the Concept of Structure
TR Young, Director, the Red Feather Institute
Smith, R. D. (1998) 'Social Structures and Chaos Theory'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 3, no. 1
Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1998
Abstract
Up to this point many of the social-scientific discussions of the impact of Chaos
theory have dealt with using chaos concepts to refine matters of prediction and control.
Chaos theory, however, has far more fundamental consequences which must also be
considered. The identification of chaotic events arise as consequences of the attempts to
model systems mathematically. For social science this means we must not only evaluate the
mathematics but also the assumptions underlying the systems themselves. This paper
attempts to show that such social-structural concepts as class, race, gender
and ethnicity produce analytic difficulties so serious that the concept of
structuralism itself must be reconceptualised to make it adequate to the demands of Chaos
theory. The most compelling mode of doing this is through the use of Connectionism. The
paper will also attempt to show this effectively means the successful inclusion of Chaos
theory into social sciences represents both a new paradigm and a new epistemology and not
just a refinement to the existing structuralist models. Research using structuralist
assumptions may require reconciliation with the new paradigm.
Keywords:
Chaos Theory, Complexity, Connectionism, Consciousness, Memes, Network Theory,
Reductionism, Social Change, Soliton, Structuralism, Timelines, Transduction
VIEW the entire article at Sociological Research Online:
http://www.socresonline.org.uk/socresonline/3/1/11.html