Complexity, Society and Social Transactions : Developing a Comprehensive Social Theory book cover
1st Edition

Complexity, Society and Social Transactions
Developing a Comprehensive Social Theory

ISBN 9780367208301
Published January 17, 2019 by Routledge
182 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents

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




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