Sunday, May 12, 2013

Morin on complexity

The following excerpts are from Edgar Morin's "From the concept of system to the paradigm of complexity." All of which sounds quite familiar with many of the themes in the blog, eh?

"As the concept of system now stands, though it is embedded in a general theory ('general system theory'), it does not constitute a paradigmatic principle; rather, the principle invoked is that of holism, which seeks explanation at the level of the totality, in opposition to the reductionist paradigm that seeks explanation at the level of elementary components. As I shall demonstrate, however, this 'holism' arises from the same simplifying principle as the reductionism to which it is opposed (that is, a simplification of, and reduction to, the whole)" (1).

"We should conceive of systems not only in terms of global unity...but in terms of a unitas multiplex; here again, antagonistic terms are necessarily coupled. The whole is effectively a macro-unity, but the parts are not fused or confused therein; they have a double identity, one which continues to belong to each of them individually (and is thus irreducible to the whole), and one which is held in common (constituting, so to speak, their citizenship in the system)" (3).

"'Progress' does not necessarily consist in the construction of larger and larger wholes; on the contrary, it may lie in the freedom and independence of small components. The richness of the universe is not found in its dissipative totality, but in the small reflexive entities-the deviant and peripheral units-which have self-assembled within it....The whole is less than the whole. Within every whole there are penumbras and mutual incomprehensions-indeed schisms and rifts between the repressed and the expressed, the submerged and the emergent, the generative and the phenomenal. There are black holes at the heart of every biological totality, especially every anthropo-social totality.... If one places this the very heart of the system paradigm, then this paradigm opens out spontaneously onto the modern theories of the individual unconscious (Freud) and the social unconscious (Marx)" (4-5).

And I might add, the withdrawn.

"Also, we must found the idea of system on a non-totalitarian and non-hierarchical concept of the whole, and, more particularly, on a complex concept of the unitas multiplex as a means of access to poly totalities. This preliminary paradigm is, in fact, of capital social and political importance. The paradigm of holistic simplification leads to a neo-totalitarian functionalism and accommodates itself easily to all the modem forms of totalitarianism. In any event, it leads to the manipulation of the individual units in the name of the whole" (6).

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