Complexity and Co-Evolution

Complexity and Co-Evolution

Continuity and Change in Socio-Economic Systems

Edited by Elizabeth Garnsey and James McGlade

This book applies ideas and methods from the complexity perspective to key concerns in the social sciences, exploring co-evolutionary processes that have not yet been addressed in the technical or popular literature on complexity. Authorities in a variety of fields – including evolutionary economics, innovation and regeneration studies, urban modelling and history – re-evaluate their disciplines within this framework. The book explores the complex dynamic processes that give rise to socio-economic change over space and time, with reference to empirical cases including the emergence of knowledge-intensive industries and decline of mature regions, the operation of innovative networks and the evolution of localities and cities. Sustainability is a persistent theme and the practicability of intervention is examined in the light of these perspectives.

Chapter 3: Cities: Continuity, Transformation and Emergence

Michael Batty, Joana Barros and Sinésio Alves Júnior

Subjects: economics and finance, evolutionary economics


Michael Batty, Joana Barros and Sinésio Alves Júnior HISTORICAL ANTECEDENTS Cities are never what they seem. Our usual response when faced with trying to understand their form and function is to revert to the almost reflex actions which are instilled into us from an early age whereby we try to make sense of the world by ‘adding things up’. With cities in existence before we even begin, we know that this strategy will not work. Our own behaviour is hard to reconcile with the kind of routine order that we see when we observe the ways in which people travel to work, the places where housing estates are built, and the almost mindless flocking that we see when we visit entertainment centres, from sports arenas to large shopping malls. In short, the ‘whole is more than the sum of the parts’ (Simon 1962). We cannot assemble the whole by simply adding up the parts, for all would agree that there is something more that makes cities function as ordered wholes. Equally, we cannot get at their essence by simply tearing apart the whole and examining the parts; through its reductionist strategy, classical science simply fails us when we try to understand such complexity. Half a century ago, science began to deal with complexity under the banner of general system theory (Bertalanffy 1972). Since then there has been a sea change in many sciences as highly centralized, purist explanations from the top down have been found wanting....

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