Boundaries and Conflict Between Social and Ecological Emergent Orders: A Left-Hayekian Perspective

Gus diZerega

Abstract


This paper will describe how feedback principles define boundaries of emergent processes within human society and the natural world. As such, these processes are theoretical simplifications from the larger more complex whole, for each order exists simultaneously with all the others. By initially separating them out, we can better explore how they interact with one another.

To illustrate this approach the emergent social processes of the market, liberal democracy, and science will be specified based on their feedback generating principles, each of which includes certain abstract ethical principles. They will be contrasted with biologically based feedback generating principles which generate ecosystems. The lack of fit both within social systems and between these systems and natural ecosystems helps pinpoint several current ecological and social crises: first that social emergent processes are not in harmony with one another, and sometimes undermine one another rather than existing harmoniously, and second, that these systems collectively and individually are not in harmony with natural processes, and while stronger in the short run are dependent in the long run on the well being of natural processes.

Social emergent processes are characterized by ethically “thin” principles that cannot be harmonized on their own with actions required to maintain a sustainable relationship with the natural world nor a social order amenable to the full complexity of values characterizing human life. However, the more complex emergent order of civil society, and institutions rooted within it, do hold open the possibility of establishing such relations.

Watershed Restoration groups and democratic land trusts will be described as examples of such ethically deep institutions.

In terms of the panel, this paper specifically addresses the status. Limits and legitimacy of knowledge regarding complex systems, system based ethics, systems and the social sciences, and systems and human subjectivity.

Keywords


ecosystems, sustainability, ethics, Hayek, human subjectivity

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