Deconstruction and complexity: a critical economy

South African Journal of Philosophy 32 (3):261-273 (2013)
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In this paper we argue for the contribution that deconstruction can make towards an understanding of complex systems. We begin with a description of what we mean by complexity and how Derrida’s thought illustrates a sensitivity towards the problems we face when dealing with complex systems. This is especially clear in Derrida’s deconstruction of the structuralist linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure. We compare this critique with the work of Edgar Morin, one of the foremost thinkers of contemporary complexity and argue for the possible contributions that both thinkers provide towards an understanding of complex phenomena in the world. We then move on to illustrate the particular economy of thinking we are forced to engage with when dealing with complex systems. This economy is inspired by Derrida’s deconstruction of Bataille’s general economy. This economy illustrates the fundamental nature of critique in the process of dealing with complex systems, the third concept we explore in this paper. The process of critique illustrates the necessity for both cutting apart and weaving together of economies in order to maintain the possibility for divergent ways of being in the world. We conclude with the ethical implications of dealing with complex systems and some first steps towards an ‘ethics of complexity’



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