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Reshaping social theory from complexity and ecological perspectives

Reshaping social theory from complexity and ecological perspectives

Smith, John and Jenks, Chris (2013) Reshaping social theory from complexity and ecological perspectives. Thesis Eleven, 114 (1). pp. 61-75. ISSN 0725-5136 (Print), 1461-7455 (Online) (doi:

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This article argues that Durkheim’s founding insight – uniquely social phenomena – presents us with both a foundation for the discipline of sociology and the risk that the discipline will become isolated. This, we argue, has happened. Our contention is that the emergent social phenomena need to be understood in relation to, but not reduced to, their biological and psychological substrates. Similarly, there are a number of other characteristics, notably of self-organization, which are distinguishing properties of social phenomena but also of quite different phenomena. The comparison is instructive. We therefore argue for an ecological approach to sociological theory, which has important relationships to the general theories and philosophy of ecology and biology. We explore a number of terminological and conceptual parallels that may inform our understanding of the relation of social theory to these and other disciplines.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: [1] Published online: Feb 20, 2013. [2] Published in print: February 2013. [3] Published as: Thesis Eleven, (2013), Vol. 114, (1), pp. 61–75.
Uncontrolled Keywords: auto-eco-organization, auto-exo-reference, complexity theory, ecology, path dependency, post-natal plasticity, systems far-from equilibrium
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
L Education > L Education (General)
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Education
School of Education > Department of Education & Community Studies
School of Education > Education Research Group
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:22

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