Addressing complexity: Exploring social change through chaos and complexity theory (Peru, Washington, Bangladesh)

                         Colijn, Caroline; MES

                         YORK UNIVERSITY (CANADA), 1999


                         Chaos and complexity theories are examined in their role as a framework from which to understand social
                         change. The central question is that of how complexity, which is based in chaos theory, can shed light on
                         the emergence of ways to address macro-level problems in complex social systems. Three examples of
                         social systems are discussed in terms of complexity, and in terms of the question of how micro-level
                         processes in social systems are related to macro-level social change. These examples are the
                         comedores populares, or popular kitchens, in Lima, Peru, the Willapa Bay community in Washington
                         State, and the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. In each case, micro-macro connections are seen to be
                         connected to the emergence of ways to address macro-level problems such as poverty and
                         environmental degradation. This process is examined through a detailed study of each case of social
                         change, as well as through a development in the first several chapters of chaos and complexity theories.
                         The foundations of both chaos and complexity theory are presented, beginning with their development
                         in the physical sciences and exploring how they have been used and interpreted in the social sciences.
                         In addition, various questions of knowledge and epistemology which arise in research based in
                         complexity are addressed. It is concluded that complexity, based on chaos theory, is a powerful
                         framework for understanding social change. In social systems, the emergence of ways to address
                         macro-level problems is deeply rooted in complexity theory. It is also concluded that a consistent
                         methodology, distinct from quantitative modeling, is needed to further explore the relationship between
                         complexity theory and complex human and social systems.


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