Complexity theory

John Landon nemonemini at
Thu Mar 8 23:25:15 MST 2001

Wallerstein's "Unthinking Social Science", Polity 1991
contains some material on complex systems.

In general trying to fit historical subjects into the
rubric of complex systems has produced ambitious
enthusiasm, but few results,and I do not refer in such
criticisms to such valuable works as that of Goldstein
which is a semi-theoretical empirical study of cycles.
These cycles have no easily determined causal driver,
as the techniques used to study the original basis of
the field indicate,i.e. such works as W. Mitchell's
Economic Cycles, i.e. various statistical and fourier
methods are used to study them, successful or not. The
search for the frequency of these cycles is always
suggestive but never quite definite. The ordinary boom
and bust cycle is not coherent in that regard. Without
a 'causal' backbone, tinkering with complex systems
math is mostly a fishing expedition. Note that before
Maxwell produced a theory of electromagnetism Faraday
who was a math clutz had a working model using
intuitive ideas of fields. No amount of math is going
to work until the phenomenon to be modelled is

The elusive quarry is indicated in Marx's hybrid
viconian 'cycle sequence' with its hegelian touch,
i.e. the 'evolution of freedom'. Whatever the problems
the intuitions are sound. This hybrid has the virtues
its positivist critics found to be flaws,viz. the
dialectic of freedom and necessity, which isn't kosher
in buttoned math circles,
Marx's universal history is fascinating because it is
the last of the type passing into the combination
hybrid, of economic and universal-historical models.
If you want math models, why not Elster, and
Roemer,the dangerous  dialectical contradiction is
extracted, thus safe, no?

Thus after Marx the insight is lost, and Hegel's
sneering at mathematics becomes quite out of fashion
(I am almost kidding). It seems a lost moment. But we
forget that the sequence Kant, Hegel, Marx is really
answering the dilemma created by Newtonism, ie.
models, complex systems, whatever, and trying to pass
beyond them.

Check out my 'eonic model' of world history with its
own 'cyclical' sequence. These cycles show the 'causal
driver' plus an opposing process,and the result
coheres in a frequency, and reconcile by absorbing the
'dialectic' of freedom and necessity, what I call
'Tolstoy's Locomotive', i.e. the relation of
individual to system, methodological individualism and
collectivism combined in one system. One World system.
The large scale is actually an advantage. Five
thousand years is about the basic minimum for a real
universal history, and at that scale the answer
arrives easier because it must reckon with the scale
of evolution itself and become a theory of evolution.
Sounds weird, check it out sometime.

John Landon
nemonemin at


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