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The Problem of the Attractor A Singular Generality between Sciences and Social Theory.

Mackenzie, A (2005) The Problem of the Attractor A Singular Generality between Sciences and Social Theory. Theory, Culture and Society, 22 (5). pp. 45-65. ISSN 1460-3616

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Abstract

Contemporary complexity sciences claim a literal, non-metaphorical applicability to physical, economic, social and cultural events. They envision the development of a general social or historical physics. Conversely, in the social sciences and humanities, complexity sciences have been typically treated as a source of new metaphors or tropes to be used in theory-building. Can there be a critical social or historical physics that is not a world-view and that does not treat science as a source of metaphors? The Lorenz attractor figures centrally in the history of complexity science as a popular image of deterministic chaos butterfly effect , as an indication of how far complexity science has progressed in the last two decades, and, as this article argues, as an event whose multiplicity of interpretations attests to the problem it raises, the problem of generality associated with complexity. Via the Lorenz attractor, the article examines three attempts to treat complexity non-metaphorically in recent theoretical work (Delanda; Massumi; Stengers). In these accounts, the attractor performs several different functions. It forms part of a re-engineered concept of multiplicity, it helps conceptualize feeling or sensitivity, and it raises the general problem of practice in theory-building.

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Theory, Culture and Society
Additional Information: The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Theory, Culture and Society, 22 (5), 2005, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2005 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Theory, Cultre and Society page: http://tcs.sagepub.com/ on SAGE Journals Online: http://online.sagepub.com/
Uncontrolled Keywords: attractor multiplicity
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Departments: Faculty of Science and Technology > School of Computing & Communications
Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences > Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts
Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
ID Code: 90
Deposited By: Dr Adrian Mackenzie
Deposited On: 12 Oct 2005
Refereed?: Yes
Published?: Published
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2012 13:32
Identification Number:
URI: http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/id/eprint/90

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