And if the global were small and non-coherent? Method, complexity and the baroque

Law, J. (2008). And if the global were small and non-coherent? Method, complexity and the baroque. In: Hillier, Jean and Healey, Patsy eds. Contemporary Movements in Planning Theory: Critical Essays in Planning Theory: Volume 3, Volume 3. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 487–500.



What is it to be big? What is it to be small? And what is it to be global? Common sense, including a good deal of the common sense underlying network metaphors for complex globality, involves the assumption that the global is large, that it includes the (smaller) local, and that to understand it we need to adopt a holistic approach in which we look up to explore emergent complexities, and so obtain a provisional overview of the whole. In this paper I argue, following Chunglin Kwa, that this is a particular and romantic method for imagining complexity. I then follow Kwa by considering a baroque alternative. Instead of looking up, this looks down and discovers limitless internal complexity within, which is materially heterogeneous, specific, and sensuous. In this monadology there are no limits to complexity within, but neither is there any possibility of modeling and knowing that complexity in full. There is no overview and neither is there any assumption of coherence. In this way of thinking the global lies within each site and is small, sensuous, specific, heterogeneous, noncoherent, and cannot be more than patchily modeled.

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