Complexity theory and social constructionism are two important meta-theories that have evolved from very different worldviews and knowledge bases. Yet, there are some important similarities between the core arguments of the two meta-theories and these similarities are largely neglected in methodological debates. In essence, both meta-theories reject reductionist, time, space and relationship-free analyses of positivist or Newtonian social science.
While social constructionism reveals existence of multiple realities and viewpoints, history and context dependence of reality and the role of social embeddedness; complexity theory studies heterogeneous populations and the role of stochasticity, path-dependence of processes, the role of interactions and interdependencies and properties of social networks.
This project aims to initiate an international network of scholars working together to identify conflicts or differences as well as links and similarities between complexity theory and social constructionism. The network will also aim to develop a lingua franca through which some stability could be imposed on the terms in which social scientists debate these matters, so that scholars from different disciplines, in particular the early career researchers, could find their way around over crowded terminology.
The project is funded by ESRC and it will last for three years. The network activities will be organised around workshops and conferences, but collaborations and exchanges before and after these events will also be encouraged and guided by the project. Each year, the network will focus on a particular approach for linking complexity theory to social constructionism and in the first year, the focus will be on links via institutionalist perspectives.