Emergence in the Social Sciences

Authored by: Julie Zahle , Tuukka Kaidesoja

The Routledge Handbook of Emergence

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138925083
eBook ISBN: 9781315675213
Adobe ISBN:


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In the social sciences, discussions of emergence mainly focus on social phenomena as they emerge from individuals. Social phenomena are commonly taken to be exemplified by universities, states, traffic jams, wealth distributions, declarations of war, firms’ firing of employees and norms. Social scientists who invoke the notion of emergence typically maintain that social phenomena are emergent insofar as they arise from individuals and possess certain additional features such as being novel, irreducible, unexplainable and unpredictable relative to individuals. Among social scientists, there is no consensus as to which features should be regarded as the additional features constitutive of emergence. Moreover, the same features are sometimes characterized in divergent ways. Accordingly, diverse notions of emergence are being advocated in the social sciences.

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