Vortexes of involvement: Social systems as turbulent flow

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 37 (4):433-448 (2007)
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Abstract

How does social organization persist? How does social organization transform? This article proposes that social scientists can begin to answer these questions by considering social organization as the intermittent construction and decay of patterned action, and social actors as centers of organization with the capacity to exert force within some social scene. From this perspective, contexts that shape the dynamics of both actors and scenes could be imagined as turbulent flows that push and pull action into temporary patterns. By viewing social organization as temporary vortexes of involvement within turbulent flows of action, social scientists can focus their attention on the processes at play in the creation, stabilization, and collapse of social organization. Such a perspective corrects some of the limitations in network and field approaches for investigating the fluidity of social organization. Key Words: social organization • timing • stability • cycles • social patterns.

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