Considering Complexity: Toward A Strategy for Non-linear Analysis

Ken Hatt


This paper sets out an agenda for a post-normal sociology that revolves around acknowledging complexity, accommodating paradoxicality as a standpoint and engaging paradox. Four major interpretations of complexity are reviewed and it is argued that complexity invokes paradoxicality for sociologists that needs to be accommodated, but in a manner that facilitates engaging paradox. Paradoxicality is developed from Bateson’s model of communication and illustrated by showing how paradox occurs 1) in everyday life; 2) as a matter for investigation in sociology; and how it has affected the 3) construction and 4) justification of knowledge—the latter leading to a reflexive accommodation to paradoxicality. Drawing on the work of the critical realists and Maruyama, the paper then proposes ontological, epistemological and methodological elements for a strategy appropriate to complex systems based on a technique involving positive and negative feedback loops.

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