History repeats itself: current traps in complexity practice from a systems perspective

Ison, Raymond and Schlindwein, Sandro Luis (2006). History repeats itself: current traps in complexity practice from a systems perspective. In: 12th Australia New Zealand Systems Society (ANZSYS) Conference 'Sustaining our Social and Natural Capital', 3-6 Dec 2006, Katoomba, NSW Australia.

URL: http://www.hpsig.com/index.php?title=ANZSYS


This paper discusses the history of systems scholarship and how this has been translated
into particular forms of purposeful action, like complexity practice. Both systems and
complexity approaches have something to offer when the situation is no longer amenable
to analysis based on linear causality or reductionist approaches. In the hands of aware
practitioners both offer epistemological devices for shifting our mental furniture and both
are rich sources of metaphors, which have the capacity to trigger new and emergent
understandings. In the last 70 or so years of systems scholarship those involved have
diverged into a plethora of traditions or lineages, conserving, knowingly or not, one of
two epistemological positions: the objectivist or positivist position and the constructivist
or interpretivist position. These two epistemological positions constitute two language
communities even though many who participate in them are unaware that they do. The
trap in all of this is that so many people act without awareness of the positions that they
hold or uphold and the historicity of their thinking and acting, resulting in conflict,
rejection, lack of valuing of difference, bifurcation into smaller and smaller communities
of practice, unethical practice, etc. Based on examples coming from academic practice,
research management, modeling practice, policy praxis, among others, the implications of
this lack of awareness are discussed.

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