Continuity and Change in Socio-Economic Systems
Edited by Elizabeth Garnsey and James McGlade
Chapter 6: Industrial Resilience and Decline: A Co-Evolutionary Framework
James McGlade, Robert Murray, James Baldwin, Keith Ridgway and Belinda Winder INTRODUCTION: PROBLEMS IN UNDERSTANDING EVOLUTIONARY SOCIAL SYSTEMS Ever since the advent of the social sciences in the 18th century, a key preoccupation has been the understanding of change and the evolution of social structures. However, such research is complicated by the fact that the processes ultimately responsible for structuring long run societal dynamics are both elusive and inherently unpredictable. At root this problem is concerned with the nature of causality and its solution lies in the diﬃcult task of unravelling the complex array of micro–macro interactions linking individual purposive action to the larger scale collective processes that produce societal change (van der Leeuw and McGlade 1997). From this it follows that the central issue in understanding socioeconomic dynamics concerns the problem of emergence; that is, the role of phenomena such as collective action or the spontaneous generation of new innovations. In our present context this would include the propensity for social institutions and industries to generate options that are the result of unplanned outcomes. Thus any attempt to deal with the transformative aspects of social and industrial systems must acknowledge the important role played by initially seemingly trivial or marginal events or decisions and their propensity to produce unintended outcomes over the long-term. It is in this sense that we can speak of the need for an understanding of history if we are to have any appreciation of socio-economic evolution. The natural and social worlds we inhabit...
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