Basins of Attraction for Generative Justice

  • Ron EglashEmail author
  • Colin Garvey
Part of the Understanding Complex Systems book series (UCS)


It has long been known that dynamic systems typically tend towards some state – an “attractor” – into which they finally settle. The introduction of chaos theory has modified our understanding of these attractors: we no longer think of the final “resting state” as necessarily being at rest. In this essay we consider the attractors of social ecologies: the networks of people, technologies and natural resources that makeup our built environments. Following the work of “communitarians” we posit that basins of attraction could be created for social ecologies that foster both environmental sustainability and social justice. We refer to this confluence as “generative justice”; a phrase which references both the “bottom-up”, self-generating source of its adaptive meta stability, as well as its grounding in the ethics of egalitarian political theory.


Chaos theory Attractor Generative justice Industrial ecology Open source 


  1. 1.
    Agyeman, J., & Ogneva-Himmelberger, Y. (2009). Environmental justice and sustainability in the former Soviet Union. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Benkler, Y. (2011). Penguin and the Leviathan: How cooperation triumphs over self interest. New York: Crown Business.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Chertow, M. R. (2004). Industrial symbiosis. Encyclopedia of Energy, 3, 407–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Chertow, M. R. (2007). ‘Uncovering’ industrial symbiosis. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 11(1), 11–30.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Chertow, M. R., & Ehrenfeld, J. (2012). Organizing self-organizing systems: Toward a theory of industrial symbiosis. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 16(1), 13–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Coleman, E. G. (2012). Coding freedom: The ethics and aesthetics of hacking. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    DeSerio, R. (2003). Chaotic pendulum: The complete attractor. American Journal of Physics, 71(3), 250–257.ADSCrossRefzbMATHMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Eglash, R. (1999). African fractals. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Eglash, R. (2013, August). Generative justice versus distributive justice. Paper delivered at the 9th annual engineering, social justice, and peace conference, Rensselaer NY. Online at
  10. 10.
    Eglash, R. (2014, April). Generative justice: The revolution will be self-organized. Tikkun.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ehrenfeld, J., & Gertler, N. (1997). Industrial ecology in practice: The evolution of interdependence at Kalundborg. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 1(1), 67–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Frosch, R., & Gallopoulos, N. (1989). Strategies for manufacturing. Scientific American, 261(3), 144–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Goldberger, A. L. (1991). Is the normal heartbeat chaotic or homeostatic? News in Physiological Sciences, 6, 87–91.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Jacobsen, N. (2006). Industrial symbiosis in Kalundborg, Denmark. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 10(1–2), 239–255.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Janssen, M. A. (2007). Coordination in irrigation systems: An analysis of the Lansing-Kremer model of Bali. Agricultural Systems, 93(1–3), 170–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kropotkin, P. (1902). Mutual aid: A factor of evolution. New York: McClure, Phillips & Co.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Lansing, J. S., & Kremer, J. N. (1993). Emergent properties of Balinese water temples. American Anthropologist, 95(1), 97–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Lansing, J. S., & Miller, J. H. (2005). Cooperation games and ecological feedback: Some insights from Bali. Current Anthropology, 46(2), 328–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Matthews, J., & Tan, H. (2011). Progress toward a circular economy in China. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 15(3), 435–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Nowak, M., & Sigmund, K. (1993). Chaos and the evolution of cooperation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 90, 5091–5094.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Ochea, M. (2013). Evolution of repeated prisoner’s dilemma play under logit dynamics. Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, 37(12), 2483–2499.CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Odenbaugh, J. (2011). Complex ecological systems. In H. Cliff (Ed.), Philosophy of complex systems (Handbook of the philosophy of science, Vol. 11). Oxford: North Holland (North Holland is an imprint of Elsevier).Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Ostrom, E. (2009). A general framework for analyzing sustainability of social-ecological systems. Science, 325(5939), 419–422.ADSCrossRefzbMATHMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Park, H. S., et~al. (2008). Strategies for sustainable development of industrial park in Ulsan, South Korea – From spontaneous evolution to systematic expansion of industrial symbiosis. Journal of Environmental Management, 87(1), 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Salleh, A. (1991). Eco-socialism/ecofeminism. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 2(1), 129–134.CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Sneath, D. (1998). State policy and pasture degradation in inner Asia. Science, 281(5380), 1147–1148.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Suzuki, S., & Akiyama, E. (2008). Chaos, oscillation and the evolution of indirect reciprocity in n-person games. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 252(4), 686–693.CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    van Berkel, R., et~al. (2009). Industrial and urban symbiosis in Japan. Journal of Environmental Management, 90(3), 1544–1556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science and Technology StudiesRensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)TroyUSA

Personalised recommendations