Chapter 9: Attractors and Orbits in Dynamic Systems
9.1 INTRODUCTION The foregoing chapters have elaborated a conceptual model of social dynamics which combines insights from complexity science and institutionalism. As we have seen, these two paradigms, although of very different provenance, share certain key tenets. Initial conditions are fateful. Mechanisms of change are endogenous. There is path dependency, positive feedback and lock-in. In Part 2 we consider how this conceptualisation of social dynamics can be handled analytically, in terms of formal models and measuring instruments. We seek to build an analytical toolkit which can be used empirically. It may of course prove overly ambitious to hope for a single such methodology, powerful enough to guide research into all areas and aspects of social and economic change. It may instead be necessary to make do with a number of methods, all inspired by and consistent with our conceptual approach, but serving a variety of substantive purposes. We have drawn on a wide range of conceptual perspectives, much wider than the social sciences; we now draw on a similarly broad range of methodological approaches, considering how they can be re-deployed for studies of social dynamics. At the same time, we consider how far social scientists are already if unwittingly ‘speaking prose’: making use of dynamic perspectives which match those of complexity science. This should help us to establish what added value the latter offer and how their inappropriate use can be avoided. The goal of scientific enquiry is to understand the generative processes that underlie natural – and indeed social – phenomena....
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