Potential economies : complexity, novelty and the event

Human, Oliver (2011-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2011.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The primary concern of this dissertation will be to understand under what conditions novelty arises within a system. In classical philosophy, the notion of novelty is usually said to arise out of an event. However, the notion of an event often carries with it metaphysical and conservative implications. Therefore, part of the concern of this dissertation is to begin to develop an approach to novelty which is not dependent upon the event. This approach is developed through the insights offered by Critical Complexity and post‐structuralist philosophy. In social science the model of the frame has dominated how to think about the limitations to the context specific nature of knowledge. Instead of the analogy of a frame, this dissertation argues that it is better to adopt the notion of an ‘economy’. This is due to the fact that the notion of an economy allows social scientists to better theorize the relationships which constitute the models they create. The argument for an economy is made by exploring the connections between the work of Jacques Derrida, the complexity theorist Edgar Morin and Georges Bataille. However, when using the notion of an economy, one must always take the excess of this economy into consideration. This excess always feeds back to disrupt the economy from which it is excluded. Using terms developed in complexity theory, this dissertation illustrates how a system adapts to the environment by using this excess. Due to this there can never be a comprehensively modelled complex system because there are always facets of this system which remain hidden to the observer. The work of Alain Badiou, whose central concern is the notion of novelty arising out of an event, is introduced. The implications of depending on the event for novelty to arise are drawn out by discussing the affinities between the work of Derrida and Badiou. In this regard, Derrida’s use of the term ‘event’ much more readily agrees with a complexity informed understanding of the term in contrast to the quasi‐religious definition which Badiou uses. This complexity‐informed understanding of the event illustrates that what the event reveals is simultaneously a dearth and wealth of possibilities yet to be realized. Therefore the event cannot be depended upon to produce novelty. However, the notion of the event must not be discarded too quickly; classical science has traditionally discarded this idea due to its reductive approach. The idea of process opens up an understanding of the radical novelties produced in history to the possibility of the event and to a new understanding of ontology. This dissertation proposes that one can begin to think about radical forms of novelty without the event through the notion of experimentation. This approach allows one to engage with what exists rather than relying upon an event to produce novelty. This argument is made by following Bataille, who argues that through an engagement with non‐utilitarian forms of action, by expending for the sake of expenditure, the world is opened up to possibilities which remain unrealized under the current hegemony. In this light, this dissertation begins to develop a definition of novelty as that which forces a rereading of the system’s history.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie proefskrif onderneem hoofsaaklik om die omstandighede waaronder nuwigheid binne ʼn stelsel ontstaan te verstaan. Daar word in die klassieke filosofie voorgehou dat nuwigheid gewoonlik vanuit ʼn gebeurtenis ontstaan. Die idee van ʼn gebeurtenis hou egter dikwels ongewenste metafisiese en konserwatiewe implikasies in. Hierdie proefskrif onderneem dus om, deels, ʼn benadering tot nuwigheid te ontwikkel wat onafhanklik van die gebeurtenis staan. Hierdie benadering word verder uitgebrei met behulp van insigte vanuit die Kritiese Kompleksiteits‐ en Post‐Strukturalistiese filosofie. Tot onlangs het die model van die raamwerk die wyse waarop daar oor die beperkinge van die konteks‐spesifieke aard van kennis in die sosiale wetenskappe gedink word oorheers. In hierdie proefskrif word voorgehou dat die idee van ʼn ‘ekonomie’ in plaas van die analogie van ʼn raamwerk hier gebruik behoort te word, omdat dit ons sal toelaat om die verhoudings binne die modelle wat deur sosiale wetenskaplikes gebruik word beter te verken. Verder word die moontlike verbande tussen Jacques Derrida , die kompleksiteitsfilosoof Edgar Morin en Georges Bataille teen hierdie agtergrond verken. Wanneer daar van ʼn ekonomie gepraat word, moet die oormaat van die ekonomie altyd in ag geneem word. Hierdie oormaat ontwrig altyd die ekonomie waarby dit uitgesluit word. Om te wys hoe die stelsel van so ʼn oormaat gebruik maak om by sy omgewing aan te pas, sal terminologie wat in die konteks van kompleksiteitsteorie ontwikkel is gebruik word. As gevolg van die oorvloed binne ʼn stelsel sal daar nooit ʼn volledige model van die stelsel ontwikkel kan word nie ‐‐ fasette van die stelsel sal altyd vir die waarnemer verborge bly. Verder sal die werk van Alain Badiou, wie se filosofie rondom die idee van nuwigheid wat uit ʼn gebeurtenis ontstaan gesentreed is, in hierdie verhandeling bespreek word. Die implikasies van die idee dat nuwigheid van die gebeurtenis afhanklik is word uitgelig deur die verwantskappe tussen die werke van Derrida en Badiou te bespreek. Derrida se gebruik van die term ‘gebeurtenis’ dra ʼn noue verwantskap met kompleksiteitsteorie, en dit word teenoor Badiou se amper‐godsdienstige gebruik van die term gestel. Daar word aangevoer dat daar binne ʼn kompleksiteits‐ingeligte verstaan van ʼn gebeurtenis beide ʼn skaarste en ʼn oorvloed van moontlikhede bestaan wat vervul kan word. Daarom kan daar juis nié op die gebeurtenis staatgemaak word om nuwigheid te skep nie. Die idee van die gebeurtenis moet egter nie te gou verwerp word nie. As gevolg van die klassieke wetenskap se reduksionisme is die idee van ʼn gebeurtenis tradisioneel ontken. Daarteenoor ontsluit die idee van ʼn proses die moontlikheid van radikale nuwighede in die geskiedenis as gevolg van ʼn verstaan van die gebeurtenis wat tot ʼn nuwe verstaan van die ontologie lei. Hierdie proefskrif stel dus voor dat ons voortaan aan radikale nuwigheid dink in terme van die denkbeeld van eksperimentering eerder as in terme van die gebeurtenis. Eksperimentering laat ons toe om te werk met wat ons het, eerder as om op ʼn gebeurtenis te moet wag. Na aanleiding van Bataille is die voorstel dat daar deur om te gaan met nieutilitaristiese vorms van optrede nuwe geleenthede vir die wêreld oopgemaak word; geleenthede wat onder die huidige hegemonie ongerealiseerd sal bly. In hierdie verband stel die proefskrif ʼn definisie van nuwigheid voor as dít wat mens dwing om die geskiedenis van ʼn stelsel te herformuleer.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/18041
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