9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN29 Social Theory

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Philisophy of Social Science: Unintended Consequences, Emergence and Evolution Building AA, AA.328

How to Theorize Social Emergence?

The ontological concept of social emergence refers to processes in which many individual agents interact with each other in such a way that their interaction creates social entities which possess qualitatively new kinds of properties (i.e. emergent properties). The phenomenon of social emergence has already been discussed by classics of sociology such as Georg Simmel and Emile Durkheim. However, it remains controversial as to what exactly are the defining features of emergent social properties and how exactly the processes of social emergence occur. In more recent discussion in social theory and social ontology the concept of emergence has been used, among others, by Margaret Archer, Roy Bhaskar, Mario Bunge, Geoffrey Hodgson, Dave Elder-Vass and Keith Sawyer.

The aim of my presentation is to develop conceptual tools that can be utilized in dealing with processes of social emergence and emergent social properties both theoretically and empirically. Initially, I define the concepts of social emergence and emergent social property by using Mario Bunge´s systemic approach to social ontology. I strive to show, however, that Bunge´s definition of the concept of emergent social property is too weak for the purposes of such an emergentist social ontology, which rejects ontological and methodological individualism. Hence, I suggest that William Wimsatt?s four conditions of aggregativity of systemic property and his conception of emergent properties as more or less non-aggregative systemic properties can be used in developing stronger varieties of the concept of emergent social property than those indicated in Bunge´s definition of it. I also seek to demonstrate the usefulness of these conditions by providing sociologically relevant examples. To my knowledge, neither Wimsatt nor anyone else has systematically applied his conditions of aggregativity to social systems.