Structuralism, Cybernetics, and Regimes of Attraction

Larval Subjects .

In the after panel discussions, one of the key questions that came up was that of how I account for the work that the concept of structure is trying to do.  It was Peter Gratton that raised this important and perfectly legitimate question (both in the Q&A following my talk and in subsequent conversations throughout the remainder of the day).  If I understood Peter’s question properly, the worry here is that of how we’re to account for how certain social patterns iterate and reproduce themselves across time and geography if wen dispense with the concept of structure.

I very much like Peter’s way of formulating the question, but for me it’s precisely these sorts of concerns that lead me to reject the concept of structure.  In my view, the problem with the concept of structure is that it tells us that there are patterns that reproduce themselves across time and…

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About dmf

alienist @ large, mostly on foot
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7 Responses to Structuralism, Cybernetics, and Regimes of Attraction

  1. edmundberger says:

    Ah, this is a good one! Thanks

    • dmf says:

      sure i think there are two general strains of cybernetic thinkers folks like levi who think we can map-diagram it all out along roughly structuralist lines and those of us who see complexity, feedback-loops, non-linearity, etc as part of why we will never grasp much of what is going on let alone what will come next, that things aren’t in fact systematic in any rigorous sense.

      • edmundberger says:

        Yeah, that’s roughly the divide between 1st order cybernetics and 2nd order cybernetics (which is really more properly systems theory). 1st order is very determinate, relying heavily on stochastic processes to (with success) anticipate future action based on past patterns and disjunction between signal and noise. It’s wholesale adaptation into the social sciences, and structuralism by extension of this project, was really detrimental and didn’t lead only to faulty philosophy, but disastrous public policy.

        I too fall on the 2nd order side, with complexity, multiple feedback loops and non-linearity, which only really got underway when Bateson and Heinz von Foerster started including the role of the observer in the system being observed. Sadly, the key insights of 2nd order (the non-linear relation between organism and environment) generally gets lost today in the exciting image of the network and self-organizing properties, and are used to shore up all sorts of thoughts and practices that continue onward with the organism/environment divide. Luckily, there are people like W. Brian Arthur speaking the truth, and hopefully ideas like his will catch on in due time:

      • dmf says:

        ah yeah there was a period back in the daze when i was walking around using terms like reflexivity to no avail with social theorists of varying stripes, thanks for the link will take a look.

  2. Pingback: Flashlight Philosophy | synthetic zero

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