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

See all articles by Christian Fuchs

Christian Fuchs

University of Salzburg

Wolfgang Hofkirchner

Vienna University of Technology - Institute for Design Engineering and Technical Logistics

Bert Klauninger

Vienna University of Technology - Institute for Interactive Media Systems

Date Written: September 30, 2002

Abstract

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

Fuchs, Christian and Hofkirchner, Wolfgang and Klauninger, Bert, The Dialectic of Bottom-Up and Top-Down Emergence in Social Systems (September 30, 2002). INTAS Project "Human Strategies in Complexity" Research Paper No. 8, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=385300 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.385300

Christian Fuchs (Contact Author)

University of Salzburg ( email )

A-5020 Salzburg
Austria

Wolfgang Hofkirchner

Vienna University of Technology - Institute for Design Engineering and Technical Logistics ( email )

Favoritenstr. 9-11
Vienna 1040
Austria

Bert Klauninger

Vienna University of Technology - Institute for Interactive Media Systems ( email )

Favoritenstr. 9-11
Vienna 1040
Austria

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