Evolution, Complex Systems and the Dialectic

  • Peter Knapp Villanova University


The status of large scale historical macro-theories is contested both in world-systems theory and in sociology as a whole. I distinguish three types of such dynamic models: evolutionary models, systems models and dialectical models. I define dialectical models as a family of complex systems models characterized by positive feedback (self-reinforcement or auto-catalysis). Such models lead to processes of accumulation and polarization, leading to system crisis. The games of Monopoly and Risk provide popular examples. This paper investigates the dynamic properties of three examples of such models: Myrdal's model of cumulative causation; Collins's models of Marxian transformations and geopolitics; and Chaso-Dunn and Hall's iterative model of world-systems transformations. A combination of evolutionary, complex systems and dialectical analyses has consideralble overlap with chaotic, far-from-equilibrium types of models and with analyses of complex adaptive systems. Such discontinuous, nonlinear dynamic models show great potential for solving problems of dynamic analysis both within world-systems theory and within sociology as a whole.
How to Cite
Knapp, P. (1999). Evolution, Complex Systems and the Dialectic. Journal of World-Systems Research, 5(1), 74-103. https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.1999.147
General Section