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Organized Social Complexity: Challenge to Politics and Policy

Organized Social Complexity: Challenge to Politics and Policy

Edited by Todd R. La Porte
Copyright Date: 1975
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Organized Social Complexity: Challenge to Politics and Policy
    Book Description:

    One striking feature of modern political and social development has been the construction of social systems encompassing more and more groups. The increase in social complexity, the authors of this volume contend, has reached a point where accepted concepts fail to describe social and political phenomena adequately.

    The studies in this book reevaluate traditional assumptions. Part One defines organized social complexity and discusses the effects of technological change. Part Two assesses national planning and systems analysis, approaches supposed to provide direct control over social matters. Part Three describes methodological aspects and research applications, and Part Four provides retrospective and prospective views of theories on social complexity.

    Originally published in 1975.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6996-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Todd R. La Porte
  5. PART ONE Explication of the Concept of Organized Complexity:: Studies in Its Effects

    • Chapter I Organized Social Complexity: Explication of a Concept
      (pp. 3-39)

      One particularly striking aspect of modern political and social development has been the capacity of men to construct social systems encompassing more and more groups. Our lives are bounded by agencies, organizations, combines, coalitions, and associations: networks of hundreds of connected groups and persons. In part this condition has been a self-moving outgrowth of economic and technological progress which has stimulated proliferating organizational and social differentiation. In part men have intentionally linked group to group, organization to organization, nation to nation in efforts to gather specialized and mutually required resources. National development of such resource capacity has been a major...

    • Chapter II Complexity and the Limits of Human Understanding
      (pp. 40-76)

      What follows is not the traditional academic essay moving smoothly from beginning to end, but rather a collection of interrelated but largely inconclusive arguments. You will find that each of the sections will embark upon a theme, develop it for a while, and then stop as the discussion turns to another idea. My reason for writing in this manner was that after several attempts, I found it impossible to pretend that my thinking on these matters could be stated in a decisive linear argument. In the hope that others would be encouraged to carry the investigation further, I have tried...

    • Chapter III Organizational Complexity in the New Industrial State: The Role of Technology
      (pp. 77-116)

      This chapter will examine the proposition that technological progress causes systematically increasing levels of organized social complexity. A discussion of this relationship is necessarily embedded in a matrix of contemporary concerns about what technology is doing to society’s institutions and values. Both popular and scholarly concern for these problems has become quite intense. Radicals and conservatives alike decry the dehumanizing and totalitarian effects of technology, legislators worry about how we can anticipate its manifold secondary consequences, and social theorists argue that many superficially unrelated political and social problems have a common source in technology.¹ Above all, there is a generalized...

  6. PART TWO Approaches in Policy Analysis and Design

    • Chapter IV Complexity, Planning, and Public Order
      (pp. 119-150)

      Ours is an unhappy society. Not only has its medium of economic exchange been twice devalued in as many years, but the very words we use to describe that event and other politically significant ones have suffered a similar fate. This latter devaluation has posed vexing problems for the marketing of the ideas in this paper. Along with the other contributions to this volume, the present chapter has its roots in discussions which began in Berkeley in the late 1960’s. At that time, military policy, domestic social programs, and civil strife politicized public debate and action. Those years left a...

    • Chapter V The Use of Systems Constructs in Simplifying Organized Social Complexity
      (pp. 151-172)

      Systems metaphors have flooded the worlds of thought and action.¹ They have been adopted by many scholars and policy analysts looking for ways to improve our understanding of varied social phenomena. This mode of conceptualization has also been attacked by some who believe that systems analogs do little to further understanding or facilitate analysis and rejected outright by others who simply do not understand the use of conceptual constructs. This chapter is not another attempt to proclaim or disclaim systemic thought. Rather, it is an attempt to explore and compare examples of recent systemic constructions and their applications as they...

  7. PART THREE Methodology:: Some Implications for Research

    • Chapter VI Analysis of Complex Systems: An Experiment and Its Implications For Policy Making
      (pp. 175-219)

      Contemporary political and social systems are surely complex. Following Herbert Simon, we understand a complex system to be one made up of “a large number of parts that interact in a non-simple way. In such systems, the whole is more than the sum of its parts, not in an ultimate metaphysical sense, but in the important pragmatic sense that, given the interaction, it is not a trivial matter to infer the properties of the whole.”² Confronted with this complexity, social scientists have reacted by simplifying phenomena, ignoring some and emphasizing others, in order to achieve some sense of comprehension. Richard...

    • Chapter VII On Studying the Future Behavior of Complex Systems
      (pp. 220-255)

      Speculation on the political shape of the future has always preoccupied thoughtful men. Some of it has been idealistic: Plato’sRepublicprojected the philosophically perfected state; Sir Thomas More in the sixteenth century contributed that piece of idyllic political speculation which gave the ideal state its name:Utopia. Not surprisingly, there is minimal technological involvement in Plato’s “future.” More’s ideal society, however, characterized by the division of labor and social interdependence, includes a limited degree of technology — suspect and mistrusted. Prompted by actual social inequities caused by the new economic forms which were emerging in Tudor England, his scheme allowed...

    • Chapter VIII The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: A Case Study of Complexity in Educational Institutions
      (pp. 256-278)
      D. J. NIAS

      An essay based on a narrative of relatively insignificant events within a small section of the English system of higher education may seem slightly out of place among these chapters with high levels of conceptual and theoretical content.¹ Yet no apology is required: narrative need not be simple-minded. It may illustrate propositions, suggest hypotheses, and provide conceptual tools for the practitioner. The grand design in any of the social sciences is aesthetically appealing, probably because, as Alexander suggests,² the human mind can deal more readily with the simple than the complex, and overarching theories tend to appear simple in their...

  8. PART FOUR Prospects in the Study of Social Complexity

    • Chapter IX Complexity as a Theoretical Problem: Wider Perspectives in Political Theory
      (pp. 281-331)

      This chapter attempts to widen our common understanding of what “complexity” can mean, especially with reference to social and political institutions. Like other important concepts in social and political theory, “complexity” has taken on a set of quite diverse meanings. Awareness of this diversity is important, in that it should serve to heighten our sense of alternatives in thinking about organized social complexity in contemporary contexts.

      It is an error to think that awareness of, and for that matter analytical treatment of, complexity in human institutions is wholly new and unprecedented. On the contrary, writers in the Western tradition of...

    • Chapter X Complexity and Uncertainty: Challenge to Action
      (pp. 332-356)

      The essays in this collection were written within a common frame of reference: the assumption that recent human experience is characterized by heightened levels of surprise born of growing organized complexity in social relations. We are caught somehow in spreading webs of dependence. These networks become increasingly hard to understand. We act, supposing that the consequences of our actions will be acceptable. Yet our actions often prompt reactions unforeseen and unwanted. We seem to have unfamiliar connections to others, connections, the strength and locus of which change frequently. The duty of comprehension often burdens us uncomfortably, for what we had...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 357-370)
  10. Index
    (pp. 371-373)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 374-374)