Complexity Theory and the Social Sciences
The state of the art
Routledge – 2014 – 304 pages
For the past two decades, ‘complexity’ has informed a range of work across the social sciences. There are diverse schools of complexity thinking, and authors have used these ideas in a multiplicity of ways, from health inequalities to the organization of large scale firms. Some understand complexity as emergence from the rule-based interactions of simple agents and explore it through agent-based modelling. Others argue against such ‘restricted complexity’ and for the development of case-based narratives deploying a much wider set of approaches and techniques. Major social theorists have been reinterpreted through a complexity lens and the whole methodological programme of the social sciences has been recast in complexity terms.
In four parts, this book seeks to establish ‘the state of the art’ of complexity-informed social science as it stands now, examining:
It also points ways forward towards a complexity-informed social science for the twenty-first century, investigating the argument for a post-disciplinary, ‘open’ social science. Byrne and Callaghan consider how this might be developed as a programme of teaching and research within social science. This book will be particularly relevant for, and interesting to, students and scholars of social research methods, social theory, business and organization studies, health, education, urban studies and development studies.
Acknowledgements. Introduction. Part I: Framing the Issues 1. Understanding the Complex 2. Restricted Complexity and General Complexity: An Outline of the Arguments 3. Complexity Theory and the Philosophy of Social Science Part II: Complexity Theory Meets Social Theory. Introduction to Part II. 4. Evolutionary Social Theory 5. Structure and Agency 6. Time and Place Part III: Complexity Theory: Methodology and Methods 7. Complexity and Methodology: Exploring Trajectories through Narratives 8. Hunting Causes in a Complex World 9. Researching the Complex Social Part IV: Complexity in Action 10. Complexity in Disciplines and Fields 11. Opening the Social Sciences: The Post-disciplinary Implications of the Complexity Frame of Reference. Conclusion: Complexity and the Social Sciences: The Way Forward
David Byrne is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy in the School of Applied Social Science, Durham University.
Gill Callaghan is Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Applied Social Science, Durham University.