Sociology and Human Ecology: Complexity and Post-Humanist Perspectives, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Sociology and Human Ecology

Complexity and Post-Humanist Perspectives, 1st Edition

By John A Smith, Chris Jenks


188 pages

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Traditionally, Sociology has identified its subject matter as a distinct set – social phenomena – that can be taken as quite different and largely disconnected from potentially relevant disciplines such as Psychology, Economics or Planetary Ecology.

Within Sociology and Human Ecology, Smith and Jenks argue that this position is no longer sustainable. Indeed, exhorting the reader to confront human ecology and its relation to the physical and biological environments, Smith and Jenks suggest that the development of understanding with regards to the position occupied by the social requires, in turn, an extension of the component disciplines and methodologies of a ‘new’ human socio-ecology.

Aiming to evoke critical change to the possibility, status and range of the social sciences whilst also offering essential grounding for inter-disciplinary engagement, Sociology and Human Ecology will appeal to postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers interested in fields such as Social Theory, Socio-Biology and Ecological Economics.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Ontology from the perspective of complexity theory: auto-eco-organisation

Attention and ignorance

The dual character of ignorance: the standpoint of irony

The dual character of ignorance: pragmatism

The plurality of ignorance and ‘complexity’

Prigogine and systems far-from equilibrium

Morin: restricted and general complexity

Kauffmann and ‘the next adjacent possible’

Per Bak: Self-Organised Criticality

Conclusions and implications.

Post-script and transition: an informational turn

Chapter 2 The strengths and limitations of the concept of social construction

Marxism(s) and the Economy

Durkheim, organic solidarity and sui generic social phenomena.

The Normal & the Pathological

Weber, authority and power.

Weber and the Protestant Ethic

Foucault and post-structuralism

Reconciling Critical Realism and Social Construction

The Saussurean legacy

Conclusions and implications

Chapter 3. The ontological status of the living: a renewed foundation for epistemology and representation

Hoffmeyer and semiotic causality

Deely and biosemiotics

UexKull and the concept of the Umwelt

Autopoiesis and/or Dissipative Systems

Embodied cognition: a basic introduction

The Embodied Conceptualisation Hypothesis

The Replacement Hypothesis

The Constitution Hypothesis

J. and E. Gibson: a radical ecology of perceptual learning and development

Summary and extensions

Dennett: sufficiency, economy, distribution.

Conclusion, postscript and transition.

Chapter 4 Human cognition and development

The Standard Social Science Model (SSSM)

Evolutionary psychology

The Gibsons revisited: the ecology of perception and human development

Affordances reconsidered in the context of human development

Konnor et al: structures of human childhood

Infancy and altriciality

Puberty and adolescence

Affect theory: emotion and the realisation of the social

Kegan: ‘evolutionary balances’ and ‘orders of consciousness’.

Concluding comments: Stacey on Elias vs Freud

Chapter 5 The social, structure and the emotions

The sociological heritage

Forms of solidarity: Durkheim, Chance, TenHouten

Forms of solidarity: Douglas and Thompson

Anthropology and social theory (our emphasis) or

What do we mean by post-humanism?

A brief note on Sewell

Concluding remarks

Chapter 6 The challenge of ecological economics

A question of cycles and worldviews: Thompson, markets and hierarchies

‘Our’ propositions

Proposed counter-actions

Alternative voices

Ecological economics: an evaluation and consequences for critical theory

Chapter 7 Philosophy and Method for an Ecological-Political Economy

Imperative 1: A General Ontology as/and energy-driven auto-eco-organisation

Imperative 2. A general epistemology and/as auto-exo-reference

Imperative 3. Revisit the specific question of scale and grain

Imperative 3. Revisit the specific question of scale and grain

Imperative 3. Revisit the specific question of scale and grain

Imperative 4. The identification of actants and boundaries: qualitative aspects of scale and organisation

Imperative 5. Reconsider actants, scale and constraints/as interacting subject matter(s)

Imperative 6: Reconsider the ethics and politics of complexity. Who acts? Persistence and Darwinism. Ethics for whom?

Imperative 7: What are the demands of complexity and human ecology on openness, democracy, exemplars of reflexive inquiry?


About the Authors

John A. Smith is a Principal Lecturer and Research Lead in the Department of Education & Community Studies at the University of Greenwich, UK

Chris Jenks is a Sociologist, and has previously occupied the positions of Vice Chancellor and Principal of Brunel University London; and Pro-Vice Chancellor and Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths College University of London, UK

About the Series

Complexity in Social Science

This interdisciplinary series encourages social scientists to embrace a complex systems approach to studying the social world. A complexity approach to the social world has expanded across the disciplines since its emergence in the mid-to-late 1990s, and this can only continue as disciplines continue to change, data continue to diversify, and governance and responses to global social issues continue to challenge all involved. Covering a broad range of topics from big data and time, globalization and health, cities and inequality, and methodological applications, to more theoretical or philosophical approaches, this series responds to these challenges of complexity in the social sciences – with an emphasis on critical dialogue around, and application of these ideas in, a variety of social arenas as well as social policy.

The series will publish research monographs and edited collections between 60,000–90,000 words that include a range of philosophical, methodological and disciplinary approaches, which enrich and develop the field of social complexity and push it forward in new directions.

David Byrne is Emeritus Professor at the School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University, UK.

Brian Castellani is Professor of Sociology at Durham University and Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at Northeastern Ohio Medical University.

Emma Uprichard is Reader at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick, UK. She is also director of the Nuffield, ESRC, HEFCE funded Warwick Q-Step Centre aimed at promoting quantitative methods across the social sciences.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General