Complexity-thinking and social science: Self-organization involving human consciousness

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New Ideas in Psychology


Complexity-thinking refers to a cluster of concepts popularized in several branches of science, primarily in the physical sciences but increasingly in the social sciences. There is reason to be cautious regarding how the concepts are used across disciplines and branches of science. This paper discusses self-organization in dynamic systems, tracing its roots in social science and critiquing current usage of the term with regard to systems involving consciousness - humans and groups of humans. A brief sketch of the levels of complexity sets the groundwork for understanding the critique of self-organization to follow. I argue that consciousness fundamentally changes the terms of discussion in self-organization by adding a self/selves that is not equivalent to the system as a whole, but which directly influences what is organized, how, and toward what end. Self-organization in complex adaptive systems involving consciousness should be distinguished as self-cultivating self-organization and self-presenting self-organization.


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