9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN29 Social Theory

2009-09-05 15:30:00 2009-09-05 17:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 15:30 - 17:00 Challenges: New Developments in Social Theory Building AA, AA.326

Complexity Theories in the XXI Century

My paper will base upon my past researches on the use of Complexity Theories (CT) in the sociological thought.
From the 70's on, several authors thought that CT could help face the epistemic problems, that the former theoretical debate had found affect sociology.
Those problems belonged essentially to three categories:
- the limits of rationality in interpreting reality and foreseeing its evolution.
- the impossibility, for the observer, not to deform the observed object or the collected data
- the consequences over the social reality that a new scientific find might imply.
Although scholars like Morin claimed often that CT could overcome those problems, very often they did not achieve this goal; they only acknowledged that social reality is "complex", but could not yield theoretical tools that were as effective as the logics had been in describing mechanical phenomena.
Thus, CT became the theoretical base to reject mechanical- rationalism, on behalf, on one hand, of qualitative, hermeneutic methodologies and, on the other, of statistical-probabilistic calculations.
Now, the theoretical core of my paper will be an attempt to assess if and how Complexity Theories can be useful in the Sociological Theory in a different way.
According to Weber's thought, this implies assessing how much sociology can yield methodologically rigorous observations and an adequate level of objectivity even within those unavoidable epistemic limits. So that, I will outline a theoretic framework, which takes into account those limits. Then, I will try to explore for what objects, a "complex" sociology can provide the best performance. For example, a perfect modelling for phenomena like Globalisation, international risks, terrorism etc. is obviously impossible; thus, current sociological theory should assess at what extent is possible to comprehend them, which means assessing what level of ignorance is scientifically acceptable. A possible, cognitive strategy would drop the aim of seizing the ontology of those objects and focus on what strategies social actors have implemented, in order to face an increased social complexity and how they react to the incertitude, that those phenomena imply.