This is due to the difficulty in dealing with the process of self-organization using traditional social methods, but also because of the technical and moral limitations that are present in social research. In spite of its potential relevance for the study of social dynamics, the articulation and use of the concept of self-organization has been kept within the boundaries of complexity science and links to and from mainstream social science are scarce and rarely attempted Cilliers ; Nowotny There are technical e.
An additional impediment for the establishment of meaningful collaboration between those working in mainstream social science and social complexity is the wide range of theoretical traditions within social science. These theoretical traditions can diverge in significant ways, sometimes hindering the fact that many have developed concepts similar to self-organization, but kept them constrained by clear disciplinary boundaries, which undermine the identification of potential valuable theoretical insights, even for a researcher with a background in social science.
Having these difficulties in mind, this article presents a review of different areas of inquiry in traditional social science that could provide important resources for those working in social self-organization within the complexity paradigm. It is intended to serve as a contextualization by mapping the explicit and non-explicit uses of the term in mainstream social disciplines. Later, three foundational concepts in social science order, equilibrium and contract are discussed as examples of non-explicit uses of self-organization.
The article finishes with a section on formalization issues in the study of social self-organization. It is important to note that the aim of the discussion is not to put forward an exhaustive review of self-organization and similar concepts in the entire social science literature, so the reader might find omissions from a historical or disciplinary point of view.
The aim is, instead, to present a critical and conceptual discussion that encourages the development of robust links between mainstream social science and social complexity. Given that the audience for the article are those working in the latter, the discussion centres exclusively on the literature from mainstream social disciplines.
Before that time, in , just 2 years after the formation of the United Nations, the Commission on the Status of Women CSW was established to monitor United Nations activities on behalf of women. Research on protest events might miss individual motivations for protest, while it well accounts for contextual conditions favoring protest. The middle class is active in contentious politics both because of its higher resources, but also because of its specific issue interests. Thus, we can also study protest as influencing social and political outcomes, be they individual outcomes, actors, policies, or organizations. Research on protest events has also tested the social movement society argument. Health care for women was important. This is summarized in the model presented in Figure 1.
It is assumed the approach to self-organization by those working within the complexity paradigm is more homogeneous and relevant literature is easier to find. In order to facilitate the review, the analysis presented here focuses solely on the concept of self-organization, without addressing closely associated terms, such as complexity and emergence. It also avoids discussing the relevance, correctness or validity of the social science concepts identified as related to self-organization.
The final goal is not to advance a generalizing model of self-organization in social science, but to provide a foundation for further theoretical and conceptual interdisciplinary connections. The next section lists the main features associated with self-organization in complexity science.
Section 3 presents the systematic review. Section 6 examines three foundational concepts in social science related to self-organization: order, equilibrium and contract. Finally, Sect.
The notion of self-organization has been more robustly articulated since its inclusion within the complexity framework, however, it should not be thought of as a subordinate concept. The relation between self-organization and complexity should be seen more as one of cross-fertilization. The work of Nicolis and Prigogine on dissipative structures, for example, provided some of the philosophical foundations that allowed transferring the complexity framework, which had remained within the domain of physical systems, to biological systems, and, later, to social systems as well.
In turn, it was the production on these latter fields which partly led to the realization that complexity should not be studied only in terms of structures, but also of processes. References to the notion of self-organization can be traced back to foundational classical and modern thinkers, such as Heraclitus Kirk , Descartes and Kant Current accounts of self-organization, however, commonly refer to Ashby's work in cybernetics as the contemporary precursor. The further advancement of the concept and its inclusion into the complexity framework took a few more decades and were fostered by additional theoretical-methodological and technological developments, especially advances in computing.
Because of the overarching nature of complexity science, there is an overabundance of definitions of self-organization. A monolithic definition is unlikely, as well as undesirable. The first factor is associated with the product of the process of self-organization. The literature on self-organization contemplates several kinds of patterns and ways to measure them; in social science, many of the patterns of interest are usually designated by nominalized verbs e.
Autonomy deals with the controlling force or mechanism behind the process. Price setting is one paradigmatic example of a self-organizing process in the social domain, for it emerges from the interaction between offer and demand. Robustness and resilience are used to suggest self-organizing dynamics display a level of stability over time and space that makes their identification possible. In social science, robustness and resilience often require subjective criteria, associated with the role given to the different intervening factors.
Take, for example, the case of a political system that experiences a coup. The two concepts need not match every time. If the revolutionary forces succeed, the system might be considered to lack robustness, for political discomfort was not channelled through official mechanisms, eventually altering the regular operation of the system; yet resilient, because it does not totally dispense with prior political and social institutions.
Finally, dynamics refers to the processual part of the phenomenon. A self-organizing system will have variables and relations that vary in time; the analysis of the system is done considering this variability instead of focusing on the individual states. A well-known theoretical-methodological limitation in social science is accounting for spatio-temporal dynamics, this is the reason why new methodological approaches, such as agent-based modeling, have gained relevance in the study of self-organization in the social science domain. Before diving into a deeper discussion of the links between self-organization, its component parts, and the connections with social science, it is useful to attempt to get a sense of the current use of the term in social science.
To do this, a systematic review was carried out 2. The basic aim of most systematic reviews is to use a well-defined, and transparent, search strategy to find published literature, and to use this literature to attempt to answer specified research questions. Here, the aim is to provide us with a footing from which to understand the use of the term self-organization in social science. While it is not suggested the review is exhaustive, it does help to see the broad trends in the recent past.
The aim in this section is not to critically assess the use of the term, but simply to describe how it has been used. How is self-organization used in social science? Is it used as a metaphor, or literally? The search strategy was as follows. Only publications from peer-reviewed journals were included in the results. The final selection of articles to be included was made based on the reading of the title of the article; where this was ambiguous, the abstract was used.
There is potential for human error and bias to occur during these stages and affect the findings.
To counter these risks and minimize errors, a rigorous practice of recording and checking was used when reviewing papers. In addition, transparency is maintained via the presentation of the full list of papers reviewed in the appendix to this article. The process of coding types of use of the term involved an evolution in the characteristics i. This began with a basic metaphorical-literal split, and developed into the three uses described below. In total, ninety-four papers were found and used in the review.
However, it is important to recognize these omissions are unlikely to significantly affect the findings of the review, and the conclusions made on them. When analyzing the final selection of papers, the way in which the term was used was coded. Three types of use were identified: terminological, analogical and literal. These are discussed here along the lines of their use.
When the term is used in a terminological way, it is not used in conjunction with any other concept from complexity science and has been arrived at independently of its use in complexity science. This type of use is particularly popular in political science. The distinction is made between top-down managerial inspired collaboration and self-organized collaboration between researchers. A second use of the term, the analogical use, appears in studies from geography on the spatial organization of societies and economies Heikkinen ; Collinge ; Kotus and Hlawka ; Phillips ; Fujita and Mori Here, the term is used to describe the way in the which spatial organization of towns and cities occurs and changes.
Again, no explicit acknowledgement of complexity science or the scientific background for the study of self-organization is made. Similarly, in management and its related disciplines, there are articles which apply the term to management situations. They suggest allowing and encouraging self-organization is positive for management goals. Examples include the management of hospitals Clancy and alliances between firms Pyka and Windrum The key difference between terminological and analogical uses is that in the analogical use process is taken into account rather than only considering self-organization to be a static characteristic of an entity.
A literal use of the term implies an explicit awareness of or reference to complexity science, adopting the four characteristics of self-organization described above e. Bousquet There are no areas in social science were the literal use is widespread and established, but some authors are adopting this use in their work. The term and concept have been considered, for example, within the discipline of evolutionary economics, but the use varies from analogical to literal translations from complexity science Foster , ; Geisendorf There is a stream of literature that uses the term in relation to small group dynamics, and a particularly prevalent one around the emergence of leadership and decisions in small groups e.
Smith and Comer ; Plowman This comes from disciplines more aligned with psychology, and applies the term in a relatively literal way. However, it is still rare for the authors to explicitly refer to background complexity science or explore their use of the term.
There is a related stream of literature on crisis management e. Lehmann which applies the term to the process of response to crises, such as terrorist attacks or foreign policy situations. The suggestion in these literatures is that allowing these responses to self-organize is a potentially desirable policy goal. Since , there has been an increase in the number of articles using the term. However, this increase is not fast enough to become visible to a wide audience.
This would suggest that whilst the use of the term is becoming more popular, it would be false to suggest its take-up is accelerating.
Two disciplines 4 clearly dominated the use of the term. These were sociology and economics. It would seem fair to conclude that the movement in economics from some researchers, away from neo-classical thought, has inspired a search for new concepts, of which self-organization and more generally complexity science has been a clear beneficiary.
The reason for sociology having such a strong usage is less clear. There is the growing social simulation literature, but this is yet to really enter the mainstream.
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In terms of methodological approach, the most interesting result was the low level of use of the term in papers taking a traditional quantitative approach, when compared to theoretical or qualitative work. Of those articles utilizing a formal computational or mathematical modeling methodology, most common was the use of models which could be classed as agent-based models, or simulations, defined in a broad sense. Within this broad classification there was diversity. For example, some use more traditional econometric modeling to represent agent decision-making e.