Can we understand important social issues by studying individual personalities and decisions? Or are societies somehow more than the people in them? Sociologists have long believed that psychology can't explain what happens when people work together in complex modern societies. In contrast, most psychologists and economists believe that if we have an accurate theory of how individuals make choices and act on them, we can explain pretty much everything about social life. Social Emergence takes a new approach to these longstanding 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 to social theory.
R. Keith Sawyer is Associate Professor of Education at Washington University. He 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 modeling of societies.
Acknowledgements; 1. Emergence, complexity, and social science; 2. Emergence, complexity, and the third wave of social systems theory; 3. The history of emergence; 4. Emergence in psychology; 5. Emergence in sociology; 6. Durkheim's theory of social emergence; 7. Emergence and elisionism; 8. Simulating social emergence with artificial societies; 9. Communication and improvisation; 10. The Emergence paradigm.