Cambridge University Press
November 28, 2005
Can we understand important social issues by studying individual personalities and decisions? Or our society somehow more than the people in them? Sociologists have long believed that the study of individual decisions and behaviours cannot fully explain the complex modern phenomena which emerge when people interact in organizations, institutions, and societies. In contrast, most psychologists and economists tend to treat social phenomena as if they were reducible to the actions of individuals, whose independent choices can simply be added together to explain complex social processes.
Social Emergence takes a new approach to these long-standing questions. Sawyer argues that societies are complex dynamical systems, and that the best way to resolve these debates is by developing the concept of emergence, focusing on multiple levels of analysis – individuals, interactions and groups – and with a dynamic focus on how social group phenomena emerge from communication processes among individual members. This book makes a unique contribution not only to complex systems research but also the social theory.
R Keith Sawyer is Associate Professor of Education at Washington University. Is the author or editor of six previous books, including Group Creativity and Improvised Dialogues. He has also published a wide range of scholarly journal articles on contemporary issues in sociological theory and on computational modelling of societies.