The authority of complexity

Stehr, Nico and Grundmann, Reiner (2001). The authority of complexity. British Journal of Sociology, 52 (2), pp. 313-329.

Abstract

The assertion about the unique 'complexity' or the peculiarly intricate character of social phenomena has, at least within sociology, a long, venerable and virtually uncontested tradition. At the turn of the last century, classical social theorists, for example, Georg Simmel and Emile Durkheim, made prominent and repeated reference to this attribute of the subject matter of sociology and the degree to which it complicates, even inhibits the development and application of social scientific knowledge. Our paper explores the origins, the basis and the consequences of this assertion and asks in particular whether the classic complexity assertion still deserves to be invoked in analyses that ask about the production and the utilization of social scientific knowledge in modern society. We present John Maynard Keynes' economic theory and its practical applications as an illustration. We conclude that the practical value of social scientific knowledge is not dependent on a faithful, in the sense of complete, representation of social reality. Instead, social scientific knowledge that wants to optimize its practicality has to attend and attach itself to elements of social situations that can be altered or are actionable.

Publication DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00071310120045006
Divisions: Languages & Social Sciences > Sociology
Languages & Social Sciences > Sociology research group
Languages & Social Sciences
Aston Business School
Uncontrolled Keywords: complexity,social,sociological knowledge,knowledge application,social and economic theory
Full Text Link: http://onlineli ... 045006/abstract
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Published Date: 2001-06
Authors: Stehr, Nico
Grundmann, Reiner

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