The Dialectic of Bottom-Up and Top-Down Emergence in Social Systems
INTAS Project "Human Strategies in Complexity" Research Paper No. 8
27 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2003
Date Written: September 30, 2002
In this paper we will present a theoretical explanation of the relationship between so-called individual emergence and the emergence of social systems. We want to take as our point of departure the assumption that from the perspective of hierarchical systems theory self-organization on the level of social systems includes a bottom-up process as well as a top-down process. The bottom-up process refers to what in sociology is called agency, the top-down process refers to what is called structure. We will show that it is convenient to suggest that these processes be linked in a dialectical manner. In this respect we will discuss problems of determinism and indeterminism. This is the background against which we will try to clarify the notion of individual emergence. Our rather general considerations will be illustrated by how ideology, that is consciousness in a collective as well as an individual sense, is conceived of by a number of theories and how it should be conceived of when aspects of self-organization are included. We will conclude with a statement that makes clear why consciousness is a property of individuals that emerges only when individuals participate in society and why society emerges only when individuals are endowed with consciousness.
Keywords: emergence, self-organization, self-organisation, information, individual, society, social system
JEL Classification: A14, D80, Z13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation