Social Emergence: Societies as Complex Systems
Can we understand important social issues by studying individual personalities and decisions? Or are societies somehow more than the people in them? Sociologists have long believed that the study of individual decisions and behaviors cannot fully explain the complex modern phenomena which emerge when people interact in organizations, institutions, and societies. In contrast, most psychologists and economists tend to treat social phenomena as if they were reducible to the actions of individuals, whose independent choices can simply be added together to explain complex social processes.
Social Emergence takes a new approach to these longstanding questions. Sawyer argues that societies are complex dynamical systems, and that the best way to resolve these debates is by developing the concept of emergence, focusing on multiple levels of analysis — individuals, interactions, and groups — and a dynamic focus on how social group phenomena emerge from communication processes among individual members. This book makes a unique contribution not only to complex systems research but also to social theory.