Complex Systems and the Evolution of Human Society

  • Klaus Mainzer


How can one explain the emergence of political, social, and economic order in human societies? The chapter starts with a short history of political and economical systems since classical antiquity. The historical ideas of political and economical order were often illustrated by technical, physical, or biological concepts of their corresponding period. In the 17th century, Thomas Hobbes tried to transfer Galilean and Cartesian laws of movement from mechanics to anthropology and state theory. The physiocrates modeled the economic system of an absolutist state like a mechanistic 18th-century clockwork (Sect. 6.1). The liberal ideas of Locke, Hume, and Smith were designed against the historical background from Newton’s physics. Until recent years, mainstream economics has often been inspired by models from linear mathematics, classical mechanics, thermodynamics of thermal equilibrium and sometimes the Darwinian theory of evolution. Like many physicists, economists believed in the exact computability of their (linear) models and suppressed the possibility of a “butterfly effect” leading to chaos and excluding economic forcasts in the long run (Sect. 6.2).


Phase Portrait Human Society Urban System Exogenous Shock Intentional Behavior 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Klaus Mainzer
    • 1
  1. 1.Lehrstuhl für Philosophie und WissenschaftstheorieUniversität AugsburgAugsburgGermany

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