Complexity Theory and the Sociology of Natures

By Erika Cudworth.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The natural environment is characterised by incredible difference, yet its complexity is often homogenised in sociological understandings. This paper will argue that social formations are ecologically embedded in inter-species networks, and that sociological work needs to reflect this more strongly. Despite this co-constitution of the 'social' and the 'natural', the paper also argues that human nature is subject to a complex system of domination which privileges the human. Despite the dynamic qualities of the contemporary formations of natured domination, intimations of a 'posthuman condition' are very much over drawn. This paper examines the burgeoning work on systems thinking in both the natural and the social sciences, and suggests how some scientific models have developed conceptualisations that might usefully be deployed in the understanding of relatively contained social formations, and in the analysis of systemic relations between non-human communities, non-human species and environmental contexts. It proposes a concept of 'anthroparchy', a complex social system of natured domination which can be understood as a network of institutions, processes and practices that can be evidenced in particular social forms. Within a complexity frame however, 'anthroparchy' cannot stand alone. Rather, specific formations of social natures are emergent as a result of the interplay of a range of systems of domination.

Keywords: Complexity Theory, Systems Thinking, Social Natures

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.351-358. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 534.530KB).

Dr. Erika Cudworth

Senior Lecturer in Politics and Sociology, School of Social Sciences, Media and Cultural Studies, The University of East London, London, UK

Erika Cudworth is a senior lecurer in sociology and politics at the University of East London, UK. Her research interests include gender relations, particularly feminist political theory and the gendering of space, systems and complexity theory, and human relations with non-human 'nature', particularly domestic animals. She is author of Environment and Society (Routledge 2003) and Developing Ecofeminist Theory: the complexity of difference (Palgrave 2005), and The Modern State: theories and ideologies (with Hall and McGovern, Edinburgh University Press 2007).

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