Radical Complexity

Using Concepts From Complex Systems Theory to Think About Socialist Transformation



Abolishing alienated labour requires the radical democratization of economic production. Complex systems theory offers tools for theorizing how this radical democracy could be constructed. In complex systems theory, the same structures and transformations appear across multiple domains in the physical and life sciences. Evolution is one such concept. Rather than being linear and gradual, evolution is a nonlinear process in which stable equilibria are punctuated by bursts of catastrophic change. Even catastrophic change, however, happens through an incremental process: the production of new forms through new combinations of existing forms. Each evolutionary permutation of a system is a step into its space of adjacent possibilities. The task of revolutionary theory can be conceptualized as that of plotting a course through capitalism’s adjacent possibility space, bringing the system to a benign catastrophe that triggers a phase transition into socialism. The complexity of this mapping requires a distributed processing approach to theorizing that prefigures the distributed processing, or socialist general intellect, that must characterize any radically democratic worker control of production. This project suggest the expansion of a new role for professional intellectuals: that of tool makers, developing conceptual materials that feed a recursive process of the construction of socialist networks.