Reshaping social theory from complexity and ecological perspectives

John Smith, Christopher Joseph Jenks

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This article argues that Durkheim's founding insight – uniquely social phenomena – presents us with both a foundation for the discipline of sociology and the risk that the discipline will become isolated. This, we argue, has happened. Our contention is that the emergent social phenomena need to be understood in relation to, but not reduced to, their biological and psychological substrates. Similarly, there are a number of other characteristics, notably of self-organization, which are distinguishing properties of social phenomena but also of quite different phenomena. The comparison is instructive. We therefore argue for an ecological approach to sociological theory, which has important relationships to the general theories and philosophy of ecology and biology. We explore a number of terminological and conceptual parallels that may inform our understanding of the relation of social theory to these and other disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-75
Number of pages15
JournalThesis Eleven
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Auto-eco-organization
  • auto-exo-reference
  • complexity theory
  • ecology
  • path dependency
  • post-natal plasticity
  • systems far-from equilibrium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'Reshaping social theory from complexity and ecological perspectives'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this