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 4: Ecohistorical Regimes and La Longue Durée: An Approach to Mapping Long-Term Societal Change

James McGlade

Subjects: economics and finance, evolutionary economics


James McGlade INTRODUCTION The evolutionary structuring of societal systems is a core concern of the historical sciences and one that has persisted as a constant on the research horizon since the emergence of social science as a distinctive discipline in the 19th century. The reasons for this ubiquity are not difficult to fathom, since they are consistent with the late 19th and 20th century fixation with understanding human evolution and in a sense are testimony to the overwhelming influence that Darwinian ideas have had on intellectual thought generally. Somewhat inevitably, the nascent discipline of archaeology, growing up like a number of other social sciences in the second half of the 19th century, eagerly embraced the implications of the new evolutionary Zeitgeist; in particular, archaeology was transfixed by Lyle’s new geostratigraphy with its rejection of biblical time and its vision of a new temporal chronology. This latter, with its emphasis on linear, progressive evolution, was to form the underpinning of all subsequent theorizing on the nature of social change within the discipline. One celebrated attempt to go beyond the fixity of such chronological frameworks is due to the work of the Annales school founded by Febvre and Bloch in 1929. Their critique of history as a sequence of discrete events in the service of chronology and its attendant cult of detail was to provide the impetus for a manifesto of radical change. An important part of their central thesis was that, by contrast to normative schemes of history...

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