1st Edition

Complexity, Society and Social Transactions Developing a Comprehensive Social Theory

By Thomas Whalen Copyright 2018
    182 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    182 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book develops and presents a general social theory explaining social, cultural and economic ontology and, as a by-product, the ontology of other social institutions and structures. This theory is called social transaction theory. Using the framework of the complex adaptive systems model, this transdisciplinary social theory proposes that society, culture and economy are emergent from social and environmental transaction and negotiation. Each transaction contains an element of negotiation. With each transaction, there is continual renegotiation, however small or large. Even if the result is no change, renegotiation takes place. Thus, there is a constant emergence of social constructions and a continuous reconstruction of society in the ‘specious present.’ Practices, beliefs, explanations, and traditions become part of the accepted canon of a group through continual social transaction. Deviations from canon and expected outcomes are managed through narrative. Narrative can be either rejected or accepted into the social canon of a group or society.

    This social theory applied Bhaskar’s critical realism to refine the several theoretical works that were utilized. These include complex adaptive systems, Mead’s social theory, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Strauss’s negotiated order theory, game theory, Bruner’s narrative and folk psychology, Giddens's structuration theory and Ricoeur’s interpretation theory.

    A transdisciplinary account of the emergence of society and culture and the role of narrative, Complexity, Society and Social Transactions will appeal to scholars and practitioners of social theory and sociology.

    List of Tables

    List of Figures

    Preface. Why Do We Need Another Social Theory?

    Chapter 1. An invitation to a social journey

    Where Have We Been?

    What is the Question?

    Where am I Taking You?

    Overview of the Book

    Part I: Laying the Foundation

    Chapter 2. Philosophy of Science

    The Validity of Social Science

    Explaining Human Experience

    Critical Realism

    Chapter 3. A Rubric for Evaluating Social Theory

    The Epistemological Continuum



    Critical Realism


    The Ontological Continuum

    The Applicability Continuum







    My Assumptions

    Chapter 4. Scientific Method and Theory

    Scientific Paradigms

    Theoretical Methods

    Thought Experiments

    Chapter 5. Other Building Blocks


    Initial Definitions


    Adaptation versus Evolution

    Ethics and Morality

    Chapter 6. Situating the Theory

    Reflective Human Consciousness

    Consciousness as Emergent Process

    Awareness and Self-awareness

    Consciousness and Temporality



    The Unity of Conscious Experience

    Human Experience

    Initial Mediations

    Socially Constructed Mediations

    The Environment

    Situating the Theory

    Part II. Developing a Theory of Social Ontology

    Chapter 7. Complex Adaptive Systems

    Nonadaptive versus Adaptive Systems

    Chaos Theory

    Dissipative Structures

    Complex Adaptive and Nonadaptive Systems

    Complex Adaptive Systems

    Chapter 8. Emergence Theory

    Defining Emergence

    Mead’s Emergence Theory

    Social Phenomena as Emergents

    Complexity-Based Emergence Theory

    Chapter 9. Applicable Social Theory

    Mead and Social Interaction

    Self and Mind

    Past Experience and Contemplation of the Future

    Giddens and Structuration

    Needs and Motivation

    Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

    Chapter 10. Dewey and Bentley’s Transactional Approach

    Chapter 11. Negotiation, Negotiated Order Theory, and Game Theory


    Game Theory

    John Nash

    Thomas Schelling

    Cooperation v. Non-cooperation

    Folk theorem

    Negotiated Order Theory

    Chapter 12. Meaning, Meaning Making, Language, and Symbols


    Peirce, Signs, and Semeiotics

    Mead and the Significant Symbol

    Ricoeur’s Interpretation Theory

    Narrative and Meaning as Social Canon

    Chapter 13. Additional Theoretical Considerations

    Emirbayer and Relational Sociology

    Ecological Anthropology

    Ecological Psychology

    Chapter 14. A Theory of Social Ontology

    A General Social Theory

    Complex Adaptive Systems Repositioned

    Adding Social Transaction

    Adding Negotiation and Emergence

    Meaning and Negotiation


    Narrative and Folk Psychology

    A Thought Experiment

    Chapter 15. Applying the Theory in the Practical World

    The Theory’s Relationship to Social Systems and Structure

    Explaining Social Power

    Implications for Culture Study

    Ontological Implications in Economic Theory

    Rules and Rule Making

    The Golden Rule and Reciprocity

    Social Contract Theory

    The Relationship to Political Organization

    Ontological Implications in Moral Philosophy

    Moral Realism

    Moral Relativism

    Implications for Moral Philosophy

    Chapter 16. Conclusions and Further Research

    Significance for Leadership and Management

    Further Research

    Closing Thoughts





    Thomas B. Whalen is Assistant Professor of Business in the Business and Economics Department at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, USA.